Time for focus on science and research

 

Sir,– As we approach the formation of a new government of Ireland, in the immediate aftermath of the UK’s departure from the EU, it is imperative that the next government pursues policies to support and develop Ireland’s physics and wider science community.

Physics and the physical sciences are fundamental to the health, wealth, security and advancement of our society, providing advances in communications, digital security, medical diagnostics, surgical techniques and life-saving treatments. To prepare Ireland for a new industrial era of science, technology and engineering, and help secure a prosperous and productive future, the Institute of Physics calls on all parties to commit to the following six priorities.

To renew Ireland’s Innovation Strategy with an increase investment in research and development, including a commitment to increase research and development spending to 2 per cent of annual GDP (2.5 per cent of GNP) by 2025, and clear incentives to support businesses in achieving this.

To forge new partnerships with researchers and innovators in Europe. Our ability to collaborate with European colleagues with ease is fundamental to the success of Ireland’s physics community, yet Ireland is currently one of only three European countries that are not members or associates of Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

To ensure every secondary-school student has access to a specialist physics teacher and receives high-quality learning experience in the classroom.

To enhance Ireland’s world-class further and technical education sectors. Ireland currently ranks second out of 20 OECD countries for the proportion of employees with technical qualifications, but only 15 per cent of these are in Stem (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects.

To improve diversity in physics education, to ensure the workforce better reflects Irish society and overcomes the growing shortage of Stem-skilled workers.

To safeguard Ireland’s research partnerships, Ireland’s physics sector must be able to continue bringing together scientists and organisations from around the world, in order to fuel and further scientific discovery and technological innovation, and reveal opportunities for research, business development and investment.

A commitment to these six priorities will help ensure Ireland has the skills essential to high-tech industries and innovation, and place Ireland in the strongest position to realise the associated benefits in terms of economic growth, skilled jobs, and improved quality of life. – Yours, etc,

Dr YVONNE KAVANAGH,

Chairwoman,

Institute of Physics

Ireland, Dublin 4.