New Boyle bursary to boost Irish-based science research


The RDS and The Irish Times have joined to create a new £30,000 research bursary linked to the Boyle Medal award which for the past century has been presented as an acknowledgment of excellence in scientific research.

Announced last week, the bursary will provide much-needed funding to sustain a three-year research effort by a graduate or postgraduate student. The key to the award is that the student will be working under an Irish-based scientist, acknowledged by international peers to be contributing at the very highest level to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

This scientist, to be selected over the coming months by two judging panels, will become the first recipient of the newly reconstituted Boyle Medal. The presentation will take place next autumn, in the centenary year of the first Boyle Medal award made by the RDS in 1899.

The RDS instituted the award for "scientific research of exceptional merit carried out in Ireland" and more than 30 Boyle Medal awards have been given. It takes its name from one of Ireland's most famous scientists, Robert Boyle (1627-1691), described as the father of chemistry. The Irish Times and the RDS now relaunch the medal on its hundredth birthday with its new bursary.

Under the new programme, the Boyle Medal will be granted every two years. The award will be given to a scientist working in Ireland in 1999 and to an Irish-born scientist working abroad in 2001. The decision to provide an award for Irish scientists abroad was taken to mark the great success many of our Wild Geese have experienced after leaving our shores. The award programme will then continue, alternately giving the medal to scientists working here then abroad.

The £30,000 bursary is only made available to the scientist working in Ireland and so will be given once every four years. The money will not actually go the Boyle Medal winner but will be available for the funding of a research student who in turn will work under the medal-winning scientist.

The researcher need not be Irish-born but must be in a position to continue to work with the student over the three-year life of the bursary. In this way our best students will be able to ensure continuity of study under an acknowledged leader in Irish research.

Scientists may not nominate themselves for the award. Applications must come from the president/ head of a college, faculty or research institute. The managing director or head of R&D function within a company may apply on behalf of an employee and the secretary of a professional body may also nominate candidates.

There then begins an intensive judging process which starts with an initial scrutiny by a 10-person panel chaired by the leading Irish scientist Prof Dervilla Donnelly. This team will reduce the number of applicants to no more than five, with this shortlist to be announced in the summer of 1999.

An international panel of independent judges will then be selected on the basis of the shortlist and these peers will in turn interview shortlisted individuals and then select the winning scientist. The Boyle Medal award and bursary will be announced at a ceremony in October 1999. The bursary award will be paid in the form of £10,000 per annum over three consecutive years.

Applications from designated nominators must meet certain criteria. There is a nomination form and this should be accompanied by a three-page application. The first page is a curriculum vitae of the scientist. The second page should be a description of the scientist's research and why he or she should be considered for the award. This page should also indicate how the funds might be used. The third page should be an appendix detailing publications in peer-reviewed journals.

The nomination must include 15 copies of the three-page application and of the nomination form. These should be received by Carol Power of the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 no later than January 31st, 1999.

The medal award and bursary demonstrate the commitment made by both The Irish Times and the RDS to further the important work done by Irish scientists. It is a celebration of a famous Irish scientist of the past but more importantly a recognition of the quality work being done by the Irish scientists of today.

All inquiries regarding the RDS Irish Times Boyle Medal Award should be directed to:

Carol Power, (01) 668-0866, ext 217; fax-(01) 660-4014;

Maeve O'Meara, (01) 679-2022, ext 676; fax-(01) 670-4671;