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.

Discover Award for Midlands Science

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, this week announced a national investment of €5.2 million through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme. The funding will support 49 public engagement and education initiatives that aim to improve public understanding of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and engage a wide audience of people with STEM topics.

Following a highly competitive process of international peer review, local development company, Midlands Science is delighted to announce that it is one of the recipients of a 2021 Discover Award, which will enable them to manage and deliver a new project called Science Communities. One of the primary objectives of this new project is to provide a collaborative forum for those who make decisions informed by science, to dialogue with the public in a more meaningful way.

CEO OF Midlands Science Jackie Gorman commented,

‘Our Science Communities project is an exciting new project to build dialogue, discussion and exchange of views between community groups in the midlands and those involved in science and public policy. We are all more than familiar due to the experience of the past year of how science and evidence -based decision-making impacts all of our lives, so it’s a good time to look at how evidence is generated and take part in meaningful discussions which can build understanding and more impactful communications. The recent Science in Ireland Barometer showed the Irish public has a high level of trust in science and we are keen to engage in discussions about how people can discuss science with those involved in science and research. We are keen to facilitate these discussions and to be as inclusive as possible. As  an additional support, all participants will be offered free training in LIFT facilitation skills. LIFT is a not for profit which aims to increase the level of positive leadership in Ireland.’

Over the past decade,  Midlands Science has a become valuable voice in the science education and promotion sec tor here in Ireland and a big part of its success has been placing great importance on broadening scientific engagement to a wide variety of audiences and seeing engagement with science as an act of engaged citizenship. Midlands Science already connects with a wide range of people; from science, engineering and maths workshops and festival activities, to secondary student career talks, public interest events and other special interest projects but this project will take that level of engagement a step further and will hopefully result in the public feeling that their views, needs and concerns are taken on board in a real way.

Dr. Craig Slattery, Chairman of Midlands Science said,

‘Science Communities is a citizen engagement process to bring together various stakeholders from healthcare, science, and the community to exchange views as to how and why some public health decisions are made informed by science. This dialogue will not change how decisions are made as decisions are based on evidence, but it may change how decisions are communicated to the public and therefore impact their effectiveness. We are very grateful for the support, collaborative spirit and commitment that Midlands Science has received from corporate sponsors and funders such as SFI and the confidence that this demonstrates in our work.’

Other SFI Discover Programme projects for this year cover topics including biodiversity, STEM sign language, climate action and sustainability, coding, epilepsy, understanding pandemics, digital wellbeing, and the link between music, maths, and physics.  The initiatives also target a wide range of ages including young children, teens, and adults as well as some initiatives designed for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and attending DEIS schools.

Midlands Science offers a wide variety of free and engaging activities for a wide range of groups all year around and a range of online content. More details are available on


Midlands Science Deliver Training for Best Practice in Science Outreach

Local development company Midlands Science has been continuing to provide science education outreach work over the past year in spite of the very challenging situation the world now finds itself in. In addition to virtually delivering plenty of science workshops and interactive events since March 2020, Midlands Science has also recently commenced a new project online around building Science Capital in the Midlands with participation from twelve organisations, providing vital capacity building in best practice in science outreach. This initiative is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Discover Award programme and training for the participants is currently underway with University College London and the Science Museum Academy.

Dr Ruth Freeman, Direc tor of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said:

“Science Foundation Ireland is pleased to support this Science Capital project, which will contribute towards the development of our nation’s scientific curiosity and literacy. By offering tools and training to understand what influences our engagement with science, we can facilitate more inclusive and diverse conversations, provide equal access to careers in science and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to find personal meaning and connection with STEM.”

CEO of Midlands Science Jackie Gorman commented,

‘Science capital can help us to understand why people from all backgrounds participate in and engage with science and how their engagement can vary through a range of science-related experiences. It also sheds light on why particular social groups remain underrepresented and why many young people do not see science careers as being suitable for them.  We have a diverse group of people on board for this training from fields of local development, youth work and heritage, all of whom interact with a wide range of people in their work. Each participant was were selected in 2020 to take part in this Science Capital training through Midlands Science with University College London and the Science Museum London as part of a Science Foundation Discover Award received by Midlands Science.’

The aim is that this Science Capital training will provide research not only around participation in science but will also focus on the many other important fac tors that come in to play, including gender, teaching, education and culture. This training will be a valuable addition to Midlands Science’ own resources and will hopefully help us to continue to encourage more future generations to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

Miriam Harte from Camara who is participating in the training commented,

‘My experience of the Science Capital Training Programme has been incredibly positive. I’ve learned a huge amount of new information about communicating science, especially with harder- to-reach audiences. The standard of speakers and facilita tors has been excellent, each sharing a unique and interesting way of approaching new science capital concepts. This training has definitely changed the way I look at my work and how I communicate with my target audience. I’m really looking forward  to finding more ways to integrate my learnings within my own work and to sharing this with my colleagues. I very much felt that, during a time of great adjustment and stress in 2020, it has been reassuring to have this consistent group of peers to brains torm the educational challenges which we’ve faced and the ways in which we can overcome these challenges with a bit of self-reflection and creativity.’

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘As Covid19 hit a number of our annual programmes, it also impacted the execution of this training. We had to pivot delivery online and as part of additional supports, we then provided science communications training with Dr Niamh Shaw and online engagement best practice with Maebh Coleman of Technological University Dublin. The group also commenced training online with University College London and the Science Museum London and this will run in to 2021. A number of participants will also undertake additional portfolio work which will allow them to become science capital trainers and spread their learning further in their networks and communities. The provision of this training is a vital part of Midlands Science work to develop capacity with partners and to provide access to international best practice in science outreach.’





Great News for Irish Science!

Science Foundation Ireland funds research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to assist the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. We are delighted to share this news today.



Do you need to Learn more about Science?

scoil mhuire ipads project2A major study published last week shows people in Ireland are generally supportive of State investment in science and believe it is important for our economic development.

The study also shows too many people feel uninformed about major science issues such as climate and energy. They also believe scientists do not listen to ordinary people.

The Science in Ireland Barometer sampled the views of more than than 1,000 people around the State and was released by Minister of State for Research and Innovation Damien English to mark the launch of Science Week 2015, which gets under way in November offering more than 800 events.

Between 83 and 88 per cent of people believe science education is important, that it will improve Ireland and that it could solve major societal challenges.

Nine out of 10 people said science was important for people’s future and almost as many said it would bring economic growth and support jobs.

However, about seven in 10 people said science was too specialised for them, that there was too much conflicting information, and that scientists didn’t listen to ordinary people.

Source: The Irish Times

Don’t miss the chance to learn more about science often is some of the most unexpected locations this year at the Midlands Science Festival!

Calling All Midlands Scientists Working Abroad

mary GEarlier this year, local development company Atlantic Corridor launched a new diaspora-based framework to help promote economic development across the Midlands counties of Offaly, Westmeath, Laois and Longford. In keeping with its overall strategic aims, the focus going forward will now be placed upon trying to build diaspora and global connections within the scientific and technology community in the main.

The ability to engage globally with scientists who have a connection to Ireland could represent significant potential for the work Atlantic Corridor is already trying to do in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and other academic and corporate partners in the Midlands region.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Atlantic Corridor said,
‘We know that Irish scientists are making vast contributions in all fields of science,technology, engineering and maths on a global scale and we now intend to place a strong focus on sourcing such professionals with a Midlands connection and facilitating introductions to contacts here in order to do something meaningful for home based scientists and in a more coordinated way. Our aim is to grow our network of scientists in order to be able to facilitate discussion and improve the quality and content of events that we roll out throughout the year such as the Midlands Science Festival, which is now heading in to its third year.’

There are many innovative and bright Midlands’ minds who may now be based abroad but this new initiative is a way of ensuring that they stay connected to their home country in a very real and potentially mutually beneficial way. Atlantic Corridor is very fortunate to have the support of one highly successful individual who plans to visit the region next year and assist with the development of this Midlands scientific diaspora.
Dr.Mary Guinan (pho to above) is a physician and scientist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia for 24 years as a medical detective. Mary’s father Michael Guinan was born in Ballycumber, Co. Offaly and Mary is extremely proud of her Irish roots.

Mary Guinan said,
‘My father emigrated to the U.S. and settled in New York City but he always stayed close to his roots and so, I spent a lot of time with my Granny Guinan and other family in Co.Offaly as a child, teenager and adult. I am very interested in assisting in any way that I possibly can to encourage Irish students and young professionals to pursue a career in science. I am happy to share ideas and experiences that may help contribute to both the promotion of science education and economic development in Ireland and the Midlands specifically. It is so important that those who have worked hard and have been successful globally do everything we can to ensure that Ireland’s profile is constantly improving and we can do so by educating and encouraging the next generation to make good career choices and be aware of the many wonderful opportunities both at home and abroad.’

Mary served in the worldwide smallpox eradication program in India and was part of the CDC team that investigated the early AIDS epidemic and her work in AIDS is documented in the book and movie “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts. In 1998 Mary was appointed the Nevada State Health Officer. In 2004 she was recruited to University of Nevada, Las Vegas to serve as founding dean of the School of Public Health. In 2008 she was asked to return as State Health Officer to assist in the state’s response to a Hepatitis C outbreak in southern Nevada before retiring in 2014. Her first book “Adventures of a Female Medical Detective” will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press in Spring 2016.

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘We are aware that more than one million people in Georgia for instance, claim Irish or Scots-Irish heritage and this initiative is an ideal way to try to capture some of the expertise and goodwill that may be a very solid, yet currently untapped economic resource. If successful, we would like to see members of this group becoming men tors to Irish students and we would also like to see more being done to highlight the achievements of Irish and Midlands scientists globally. If you have an interest in being involved in the development of this network, please let us know.’

Atlantic Corridor envision a network consisting of representatives from a variety of different scientific backgrounds, all with an interest in connecting back to Ireland and promoting the advancement of ideas and innovation here. Members could hail for example from academia, life sciences and pharmaceutical companies, science policy or communications, science agencies or worldwide science festivals.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Direc tor General, Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland stated, “Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Government of Ireland are keen to recognise the achievements of those scientists and engineers that have left Ireland but that continue to maintain strong and enduring links with the research and business community at home. SFI seeks to honour this talented cohort in the US specifically through the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal which is presented annually, by the Taoiseach in Washing ton D.C. during the St. Patrick’s Day Programme. The third year of the competition is now open and SFI is calling on the diaspora community to put forward their colleagues or friends so that their achievements may be formally acknowledged by Irish leadership.”

Further detail criteria are available on the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal may be viewed at

For further information Midlands diaspora project work please contact:
Jackie Gorman on