Science journalism award commemorates Mary Mulvihill

Calling aspiring science journalists, studying at third level, interested in role of women

A new award encourages students to unleash their creative sides and tell the story of women's contribution to science and technology, past or present.

The Mary Mulvihill Memorial Award commemorates the work and legacy of pioneering Irish science author and broadcaster Mary Mulvihill, who died last year.

The award, open to undergraduate and postgraduate students enrolled in an Irish higher education institution, aims in part to encourage awareness of Mulvihill's contribution, which cannot be overstated.

That's according to science communication researcher Brian Trench, a retired senior lecturer at Dublin City University.


Trench was a founding co-chair of the Masters in Science Communication at DCU, where Mulvihill studied journalism, and he describes her contribution to science communication as significant, broad, original and innovative.

"[Mary] was early into writing material – for The Irish Times – about science in the mainstream news pages in the 1990s, and she was early into doing science-themed radio series, very much with her own voice and her own style and with the terrific producer Peter Mooney," he recalls.

"She made a very distinctive contribution in the awakening of interest in, and awareness of, scientific heritage, and a culmination of [her] heritage and writing work was the book Ingenious Ireland."

Ingenious culture

Mulvihill ran the Science@Culture bulletin about science events around Ireland, and she developed and delivered the popular Ingenious Ireland podcasts and guided walking tours that have introduced visitors and natives alike to Ireland’s scientific history, which is often hidden in plain sight in our surroundings. She was a talented public speaker and her 2011 Ignite talk at Science Gallery Dublin on The Night Dublin Dissected an Elephant is well worth a web search.

Yet despite her busy schedule, she was generous with her time and wisdom when aspiring science journalists – including this writer – asked for advice.

Mulvihill had a strong interest in the role of women in science and the theme of women’s contributions was an obvious choice for this first award, says Trench.

She founded Women in Technology and Science (Wits Ireland), which remains an active forum and network more than two decades later, and she edited two collections of biographies of women scientists and pioneers: Stars, Shells and Bluebells and Lab Coats and Lace.

The Mary Mulvihill Memorial Award, which is an initiative of the Remembering Mary Mulvihill group, encourages entrants to submit published (not before September 1st 2016) or unpublished works and suggests they could be in the form of articles, essays, radio programmes, videos or blog posts – though the list is not prescriptive.

Curiosity and creativity

The judges are Orla Hardiman, professor of neurology at Trinity College Dublin; Ann O'Dea, chief executive and co-founder of Silicon Republic and founder of Inspirefest; Fiona Ross, founding director of Epic Ireland Museum; and Anne Mulvihill, Mary's sister. They will be looking for "the kind of curiosity, creativity and story-telling imagination" that Mulvihill showed, and the winner will receive €2,000.

“Mary was a dear friend of many people who want to remember her, and even for those who didn’t know her personally she is very significant, very meaningful,” says Trench. “She deserves to be remembered as a public figure.”

The deadline for submissions is Friday, March 3rd, 2017.

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Claire O'Connell

Claire O'Connell

Claire O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times who writes about health, science and innovation