Science Communities: Free Resources for Teachers

Science Communities was an outreach project run by Midlands Science in 2021, funded by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. This project aimed to build discussion and dialogue between community groups, citizens and various stakeholders and those involved in science and public policy. Through a series of public forums, it provided a way for people to understand the scientific process, explore how evidence is generated and how we can use a scientific mindset to make various decisions in our lives. This project was informed by international best practice in public trust in science, and included 4 public forums, 2 focus groups, research questionnaires as well as leadership training days provided to all participants by LIFT Ireland.

We have taken this series of forums as a project to develop further impactful outreach, and developed 12 individual videos covering a range of topics including food, alcohol, mental health, medication, viruses, vaccines and health choices. These 12 videos are suitable for TY students, students in senior cycle and members of the general public. We have also developed a short workbook to go along with these videos to help teachers easily incorporate them into their lesson plan. Participants from the RSCI, UCD, TCD, DCU, University of Ulster and a number of agencies provided clear and engaging overview of issues in science and we look forward to developing this project further. You can find the videos and associated discussion guide with further resources here.

Expert Panel to Explore Viruses, Vaccines & Immunity with Midlands Science

Midlands Science is pleased to announce that the third event in its virtual Science Communities series will take place on October 20th at 10am (on zoom) and this interactive forum will focus on all things related to Viruses, Vaccines and Immunity. The event is free of charge and open to everyone. The forum will feature a talk from Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College Dublin. Now widely recognised as being one of the world’s most influential scientists, Luke is passionate about engaging people on scientific topics. The Science Communities project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Discover Award programme and is designed to build impactful dialogue and discussion between community groups in the Midlands and those involved in science and public policy.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman commented,

‘Through these community forums, which explore science, evidence, health and medicine, we want to create an open conversation about how scientific evidence informs public health advice. We are delighted to host this particular topic given its relevance to the international pandemic and we will be encouraging conversation between members of the audience and our panel of experts who will look at viruses and vaccines, explaining what they are and how they work in our body. We will also be discussing vaccines, immunisation and the national immunisation programme along with vaccine hesitancy and the psychology behind this.’

Professor Luke O’Neill holds the Chair of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, is an author and expert on Immunology and has been a positive voice on how science will beat Covid 19 since March 2020.  Professor Karina Butler, was a Consultant Paediatrician at Children’s Health Ireland specialising in Infectious Diseases for many years. She is a Clinical Professor of Paediatrics at UCD and was appointed to NPHET in late 2020, is a member of the COVID-19 Expert Advisory Group of HIQA and a member of the High-Level Task Force for COVID. Professor Jamie Murphy is a Professor in Psychology and a member of the Psychology Research Institute at Ulster University.

Trinity College Dublin Professor of Biochemistry, Luke O’ Neill said,

‘This has been a most alarming period for all of us, but the legacy of this pandemic will be that science delivered on its promise. There comes a great level of responsibility when informing the public of health information relating to Covid19 and it is so critically important to get the facts out and to get the right information across to people because everybody wants to know about it. Understandably, people have so many questions, even now after all this time. The bot tom line though, is that science delivered highly effective, safe vaccines and vaccination truly is the only way out of this pandemic.’

If you are interested in taking part in this project, please email outreach@midlandsscience.ie for more information.

 

 

‘Not True!’

popeye1We love listening to Professor Luke O Neill on the ‘Pat Kenny Show’ talking all things science every week, but he gave a particularly enjoyable interview recently on ‘Science Myths’ ..Here are some of the fascinating things that Luke had to say…..

Does the cold weather or being in wet clothes cause colds and flus?
No, common colds and flus are caused by viruses and not by the chill of winter time. We tend to get more colds in the winter because we are inside more so we are more likely to pick up infection from other people. So if you are sitting around in wet clothing, you are not necessarily going to catch a cold, unless of course you happen to be sitting beside someone else who has one ….and then there is a chance you will!

Should we feed a cold and starve a fever as the old saying tells us?
No, there is no evidence to support this. How it came about was due to the belief that if we take more fuel on board when we have a cold it will benefit us and give us heat and that if we have a fever we should lower that fuel. But no, there is no truth in this.

Does too much sugar make children hyperactive?
No, this isn’t the case at all! Of course sugar is believed to give you energy but it’s not the sugar boost that causes children to be hyper.. it is the running around and mixing with other children at a party of whatever other exciting place they happen to be that causes it.

Should I avoid food before I swim?
There is no reason to do this. Dive in! It is true that you get some blood flow away from the s tomach to digest food after you eat and some people have a theory that this would take blood flow from muscle therefore causing cramp, but there is no evidence to support this, so swim away!

Is it true that we only use 10% of our brain?
No, that’s not true at all! We have an enormous brain capacity and every piece of it gets used in any given day.

There is so much in the media about what foods we should be eating and spinach seems to be one of the best things we can eat in order to increase our iron intake, is this true?
No, unfortunately not. A scientist made a mistake on this one back in the 1920’s and placed a decimal point in the wrong place so spinach actually has way less iron than we have been led to believe. In fact, did you know that raw spinach actually contains oxalic acid, an organic substance that can interfere with the absorption of essential nutrients like calcium and iron? So the idea that Popeye would become stronger if he eats it is most definitely a myth!

So, there you have it ..some of the top science myths floating around out there that simply aren’t true!

Top Irish Scientist Confirmed for Midlands Science Festival

Luke-ONeillWe are thrilled to announce Leading Immunologist, Professor Luke O’ Neill of Trinity College Dublin as one of our keynote speakers at this year’s festival. Luke is known for his pioneering work on the molecular understanding of inflamma tory diseases such as rheuma toid arthritis and he addressed an impressed audience for ‘An Evening of Drug Discovery’ at the festival in 2013. We are privileged to have Luke back in the Midlands again for Science Week. The full festival line-up will be announced very soon!

Luke was recently named amongst 11 researchers based in Irish universities who were ranked among the world’s top 3,000 by the multinational media body, Thompson Reuters. Inclusion means the person’s research is listed in the top 1% for the number of times their work has been cited by other scientists. I recently had a chat with Luke to hear some of his views on the image of science and various other fac tors in advance of this year’s event….

What first inspired you towards a career in science?
An interest in biology at school led me to study biochemistry at university. Once I started doing research and discovering new things I was then hooked as it was tremendously satisfying. I also felt I could make a difference by working in science and medical research.

What are the key fac tors that are going to be important to guarantee the future of Irish science in your opinion?
Continued government investment in research and in education is essential.

What do we need to do to make the image of science more appealing?
More science in the media – emphasising fun and excitement and how science can provide you with huge fulfilment.

What advice would you give to young people considering a career in science?
Come and join the adventure!

What do you enjoy the most about teaching the next generation of scientists?
There is a real satisfaction in explaining complex phenomena in ways that students can understand such that they themselves can get engaged in science.

Are there particular areas where we are particularly short of skilled graduates?
Probably in IT.

Why is ‘Science Week’ such an important annual event in Ireland?
The more science events we have the better, as it gets the message across that science is great!