Are school-leavers rejecting science?

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on July 19th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“They are according to this article in the Examiner. However, let’s look at the data. The table below gives the number of first preferences for each ‘discipline’ after the February and July deadline. The % change is based on the February …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 19 July]

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Why we need to get rid of STEM

Posted in Research, Teaching on June 23rd, 2017 by steve

Ireland“On the surface, ‘STEM’ is a harmless acronym, a handy and catchy way of promoting disciplines that, let’s face it, are pretty important in this technological age. But, to an engineer like me who has worked in a science faculty for my whole career, the idea of lumping science and engineering together, along with maths and ‘technology’, seems a bit … simplistic …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 23 June]

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It’s ‘too difficult’: Why 40% of students say they didn’t study science in college

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on April 26th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“A survey has indicated that 40% of students didn’t choose to study science at college because they found it too difficult. The independent survey was commissioned as part of the launch of the 54th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition today …” (more)

[, 26 April]


Why I didn’t march for science

Posted in Research on April 24th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“This is the age of Science Communication. Science communication used to conjure up images of the BBC’s Horizon programme (when it used to be good) or of Carl Sagan talking about ‘billions and billions of suns’ or, if we go back far enough, of Jacob Bronowski talking about the Ascent of Man. These days, though, science communication has become big business …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 23 April]


Patchy progress on fixing global gender disparities in science

Posted in Research on March 8th, 2017 by steve

International“Although women are publishing more studies, being cited more often, and securing more coveted first-author positions than they were in the mid 1990s, overall progress towards gender parity in science varies widely by country and field. This is according to a massive report released on 8 March that is the first to examine such a broad swath of disciplines and regions of the world over time …” (more)

[Erin Ross, Nature News, 8 March]

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The problem with Stem

Posted in Teaching on February 13th, 2017 by steve

Ireland“Anyone who reads this blog regularly probably knows that I have a bit of a problem with the term ‘Stem’. ‘Stem’ covers everything from botany to theoretical physics to mechanical engineering. ‘Stem’ is more than a harmless acronym; it represents an attempt at a unification of the various science and technology disciplines to create a sort of super-discipline …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 13 February]

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Women in STEM ‘more likely to burn out’

Posted in Life on January 26th, 2017 by steve

“Women working in university science departments report higher levels of job-related burnout than men, suggests new research. The study points to reasons why women working in science might leave academia and offers ways for universities to better support them …” (more)

[Holly Else, Times Higher Education, 25 January]

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Gender gap emerges in maths and science in Irish secondary schools

Posted in Teaching on December 7th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“The gender gap is widening when it comes to science and maths in secondary schools, with boys performing significantly better than girls in the subjects …” (more)

[Joyce Fegan, Irish Examiner, 7 December]

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Some quick thoughts on TIMSS

Posted in Teaching on December 1st, 2016 by steve

Ireland“TIMSS (Trends in International Maths and Science Study) doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like PISA but it is important nonetheless. The results from the 2015 tests have just been released and the Irish Report is available here. For a small country on the periphery of Europe, we are doing quite well …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 1 December]

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Science Europe lobby group hit by sudden exodus

Posted in Research on November 30th, 2016 by steve

EU“Influential research organizations are pulling out of Science Europe, the Brussels-based advocacy group that aims to champion researchers’ interests with European Union policymakers. All but one of France’s research-funding organizations are preparing to leave the group at the end of this year …” (more)

[Inga Vesper, Nature, 29 November]

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Scientific papers get more authors

Posted in Research on November 30th, 2016 by steve

International“As readers of scientific journals can attest, the list of authors on a typical research paper appears to be growing longer and longer. The trend is laid bare by data from Scopus, the biggest database of abstracts and citations of papers …” (more)

[Economist, 25 November]

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Performance in key subjects is not adding up

Posted in Teaching on November 29th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Science, technology, engineering and maths are critically important areas for modern society. Expertise in these so-called Stem subjects is vital to supporting future economic growth. The quality of our education in these subjects, then, needs to be of the highest quality …” (more)

[Irish Times, 29 November]

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Targeted approach to science as career

Posted in Governance and administration on November 21st, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – Further to Michael Duffy’s article ‘Stem education critical for country’s future’ (November 15th), the very use of the term Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths), although commonplace, is actually not very informative and may in fact be confusing for school-leavers …” (more)

[Greg Foley, Irish Times, 21 November]

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Is Irish science responsible? It’s getting there

Posted in Research on November 19th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“‘Responsibility’ is a term we don’t often hear in the context of science. Dr Padraig Murphy, programme chair of Dublin City University’s MSc in science communication, explains why that should change …” (more)

[Silicon Republic, 18 November]


Women in science and academia

Posted in Governance and administration on November 15th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – I read with interest the article by Aine McMahon on women in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem), in which she quoted the views of Regina Moran, representing the corporate world, and Christine Loscher, representing academia (‘Successful career in Stem field now more achievable for women’, November 10th) …” (more)

[Jane Grimson, Irish Times, 15 November]

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Stem education critical for country’s future

Posted in Teaching on November 15th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“The importance of a knowledge economy to Ireland’s future is hard to measure, but it should not be underestimated. While we may not know with any certainty what the new jobs in 20 or 30 years will be, our education system has to prepare for them now. The subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) are rightly seen as critical to meet this challenge …” (more)

[Michael Duffy, Irish Times, 15 November]

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STEM, science and engineering

Posted in Teaching on November 14th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“It’s that time of year when we’re all in marketing mode. Open Days are taking place, it’s Science Week, and for many it’s a case of STEM, STEM, STEM. As a lifelong science nerd who, during the deep recession of early 1980s Ireland, chose to study chemical engineering (the most molecular of the engineering disciplines) I’m always interested in the relationship between these two disciplines and especially in how we promote them to school-leavers …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 14 November]

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Scientific language is becoming more informal

Posted in Research on November 9th, 2016 by steve

International“We are not supposed to use first-person pronouns, and contractions aren’t allowed. These rules also discourage unattended anaphoric pronouns and say that split infinitives should be rarely used. And to start a sentence with an initial conjunction is as bad as to include a listing expression, and so on. Exclamation marks are forbidden! …” (more)

[Nature, 8 November]


Why do school-leavers study science?

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on September 29th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“The first thing I do with my incoming first year biotechnology class is to give a lecture on the ’10 types of scientist’. The lecture is based on this study by the Science Council in the UK, a study that was brought to my attention by Julie Dowsett, programme manager with the pioneering Agri-Food Graduate Development Programme based in UCD and UCC …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 29 September]


The Inevitable Evolution of Bad Science

Posted in Research on September 25th, 2016 by steve

USA“Bacteria, animals, languages, cancers: all of these things can evolve, which we know from the work of legions of scientists. You could argue that science itself also evolves. Researchers vary in their methods and attitudes, in ways that affect their success, and they pass those traits to the students they train. Over time, the very culture of science is sculpted by natural selection — and according to Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath, it is headed in an unenviable direction …” (more)

[Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 21 September]