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 sector 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 www.midlandsscience.ie