Supporting science


Science Week is one of the Government’s most successful initiatives in terms of engaging the general public with science. The public understanding initiative included at least 800 events across the State and these will have attracted more than 200,000 visitors by the time the last of them takes place. Perhaps the greatest impact of the week is for children given the plethora of activities tailored to primary, junior and senior cycle. There are chemistry shows, lively presentations and youth-orientated talks by experienced presenters who know how to entertain but also deliver real science. Some scientists dislike the “whizz-bang” aspect of this, the effort put into convincing the students that science is fun. Their argument is that while science might be interesting it is also an inherently demanding subject that requires work and commitment.

The real value of an initiative such as Science Week is the possibility highly capable students who would not have considered pursuing science subjects at Leaving Cert or third level might be impressed enough to make this choice. Equally important is the possibility that the parents of such a child might also see that studies in the sciences, engineering and maths can lead to interesting and well paid jobs. Winning hearts and minds to science starts with the students but often finishes with parents.

The Government is not providing entertainment for the masses in supporting the week financially. Ireland is waging a campaign to increase the number of students taking these subjects at third level, a battle being fought by countries around the world who know their economic futures will be based on a scientific and technological foundation. The Government needs graduates to plug into research-driven companies and to become the scientists who make discoveries that create jobs and start-up companies. Achieving this aim is a central plank of the Government’s enterprise policy and success is vital if we are to develop an advanced, high-value economy.