Minister Harris Announces €5.2 Million Investment by Science Foundation Ireland in 49 Public Engagement and Education Initiatives
22 March 2021: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, today 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.
The projects 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 and those living with sight loss.
Speaking about the announcement Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to announce the 49 projects that will receive funding through the SFI Discover Programme. As we continue to live through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are more conscious than ever of the importance of supporting the public to have access to and to understand the issues that impact our collective future, and the role science and technology can play in providing solutions. These projects will play a role in starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas. I wish all the recipients every success in the roll out of their projects.”
The awards will see a number of projects supported including:
· Irish Sign Language STEM Glossary Project – National Expansion – this project aims to promote and support STEM education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) people by developing an agreed lexicon in Irish Sign Language for STEM terms. The absence of agreed signs for STEM vocabulary inhibits the teaching of STEM subjects at all levels of education and presents difficulties for those working in interpreting.
· Eco Showboat Expedition 2021 – a floating environmental science laboratory and art studio, bringing communities, scientists, and artists together across Ireland to observe, draw, photograph and film freshwater biodiversity through workshops.
· Girls Coding – CodePlus – seeks to address this imbalance by encouraging, facilitating, and providing opportunities to teenage female students to engage with Computer Science. This project includes an expansion to the Galway and Limerick areas, in addition to the Dublin based activities funded under the SFI Discover Programme in previous years.
· Igniting Curiosity in STEM: IET FIRST LEGO League – inspires children and young people from the ages of 4-16 to understand and shape the world that they live in, in a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive way.
· Dingle Peninsula 2030 – A Model Enabling Community-led Climate Action – the project will build capacity for STEM engagement in community-based climate action, which provides an ideal platform for up-scaling and amplified impact, from local to national levels. This project will be led by MaREI SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine.
· Science 4 Sight Loss – The co-creation group and planned workshops will help stimulate engagement and curiosity in STEM, provide insights into STEM-related careers and inspire this underrepresented group to have confidence in their ability to tackle the barriers of diversity and inclusion in STEM.
· Educational platform for Irish beekeepers (EDIBEE) – this project will engage beekeepers with STEM through a series of workshops to explore other skills and technology that can be used with beekeeping.
Commenting on the announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society said: “The SFI Discover Programme is a key part of our education and public engagement activity. It aims to support projects at local level, as well as at regional and national levels, to stimulate engagement and understanding with STEM. Recently, we published the SFI Science in Ireland Barometer 2020. This research enables us to have a better understanding of the public’s attitude to science and provides evidence to inform and shape how our education and public engagement initiatives meet the needs of the people of Ireland. These projects will play a key role in supporting the public to better understand the evidence behind challenges we have collectively face, and the choices we need to make in the future. We are looking forward to working with these exciting and creative education and engagement programmes, making the excitement and importance of STEM more accessible to a wide diversity of people.”
Science Foundation Ireland Backs Irish Beekeepers in Major Funding Award
Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has announced the 2021 winners of its largest ever Discover awards, with Irish beekeepers set to receive a major funding boost. The Federation of Irish Beekeepers (FIBKA) will be one of 49 groups to benefit from its Discover Funding Programme.
Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the beekeeping community in tackling the many challenges generated by climate change. Bees are integral to the survival of agricultural ecosystems, upon which the human species depends, so it is in all of our interests to ensure we sustain a thriving population.”
Promoted by environmental groups and popularised by the media the plight of Ireland’s pollinators has a high profile in the public domain. But when it comes to beekeepers, the part they play receives little attention and even less support. Paul O’Brien, Chairman of FIBKA says “The threats facing the honey bee population are so severe we urgently need to educate our beekeepers if we are to get ahead of the curve”.
The internet is awash with information about bees and beekeeping however not all of it is reliable and very little is based on Irish climate and conditions.
FIBKA is solving this problem by creating an online educational resource to support the nation’s beekeepers.
“Long gone are the days when the bees required nothing more than a little time and attention to work happily away. Along with all the other factors affecting our pollinators, honey bees are under severe pressure from the pests and diseases that have arrived in Ireland over the last decade or so. Beekeepers need to understand the science behind the problems and the solutions if we are to continue keeping bees in this country. This project will benefit beekeepers and their communities now and for many years to come. We are grateful to Science Foundation Ireland for recognising the value of our work and helping us turn our vision into reality. We are a voluntary organisation and to receive this level of funding is game-changing.”
As O’Brien says “The honey bees’ struggle is everyone’s struggle. The more we educate the people taking care of them, the brighter the future for all of us.”
Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations www.fibka.ie