Science and research

Posted in Governance and administration, Research on July 3rd, 2020 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – In response to the letter by Daniel Carey (July 1st), which suggests changing the name of the new Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Science to the Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Research …” (more)

[Kevin Nolan, Irish Times, 3 July]


Science and research

Posted in Governance and administration, Research on July 1st, 2020 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – The creation of a new department is to be welcomed, but the name – Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Science – is problematic and potentially divisive …” (more)

[Daniel Carey, Irish Times, 1 July]

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Science and the humanities in the time of pandemic: better together

Posted in Research on June 1st, 2020 by steve

Ireland“In most of the world, expertise is making a comeback. We are placing our faith in healthcare professionals such as Dr Tony Holohan and Prof Philip Nolan to lead us through the current pandemic. In the US, where the ascent of experts is on shakier ground, Dr Anthony Fauci is the target of both immoderate adulation and inexplicable death threats …” (more)

[Kathryn Conrad, Cóilín Parsons, and Julie McCormick Weng, Irish Times, 1 June]

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We need clarity on Leaving Cert science

Posted in Teaching on January 28th, 2020 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – I would like to write to support Prof Ainé Hyland’s concerns about the proposed revision of the Leaving Certificate (Letters, January 21st). I have been an active observer and supporter of science teaching in Irish schools since 1978, in particular the teaching of chemistry. The proposed minimalist specifications for the Leaving Certificate science subjects leave much to be desired as satisfactory and workable curriculum documents …” (more)

[Peter Childs, Irish Times, 28 January]

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How can we attract more girls into Stem?

Posted in Governance and administration on January 2nd, 2020 by steve

Ireland“Concerns over attracting girls into Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects have been voiced over many years. The vastness and sometimes intangible nature of Stem can act as a deterrent to some who lack a direct connection to the field …” (more)

[Judith Harford, Irish Times, 2 January]

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Research funders need to embrace slow science

Posted in Research on January 1st, 2020 by steve

“Uta Frith courted controversy earlier this year when she published an opinion piece in which she advocated for Slow Science, including the radical suggestion that researchers should be limited in the number of papers they publish each year. This idea has been mooted before, but has never taken root …” (more)

[BishopBlog, 1 January]

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Is doing science experiments ‘constructivist’?

Posted in Teaching on December 14th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Reading this article this morning made me more confused that ever as to what people mean when they talk about constructivism. I had more or less settled on the idea that constructivism meant viewing newly acquired knowledge as a jigsaw piece rather than a file in a filing cabinet but in the said article, constructivism is defined as an ‘educational philosophy that deems experience as the best way to acquire knowledge’. That’s not really telling me much …” (more)

[An Irish Blog about Education, 14 December]


Why are our PISA science scores declining?

Posted in Teaching on December 9th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“One of the more interesting aspects of the media coverage of the 2018 PISA results is that there was little or no coverage of the fact that our science scores declined for the second time in a row. Whereas, our score was 522 in 2016, it’s now 496. Given the hype around STEM and the huge amount of time and resources devoted to getting students to ‘engage’ with STEM, that does seem a little ironic. Or perhaps it’s not …” (more)

[An Irish Blog about Education, 9 December]

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Most secondary school girls face ‘confidence gap’ over science, technology and maths

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on September 12th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Many secondary school girls face an ‘information and confidence gap’ over so-called Stem subjects such as science, technology, engineering and maths, according to a new survey. Some 64% of girls say they don’t know enough about Stem, while 26% of students say here are easier ways of getting CAO points than choosing to study Stem …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 12 September]

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Teachers say junior-cycle science curriculum being ‘dumbed down’

Posted in Teaching on June 3rd, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Science teachers say a new science curriculum for pupils completing the junior cycle amounts to a ‘dumbing down’ of the subject. The finding is contained in a report by the Irish Science Teachers’ Association based on a survey of more than 700 teachers …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 3 June]

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The Great Science Publishing Scandal

Posted in Research on May 1st, 2019 by steve

Ireland“There was a programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 yesterday called The Great Science Publishing Scandal. It is now available on the interwebs here, which is how I listened to it this morning …” (more)

[In the Dark, 1 May]

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Thoughts on Motivation

Posted in Research on April 29th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“When I was a youngster I devoured popular science books. I watched the BBC science programme, Horizon, religiously, and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos was the highlight of the TV week for me. I was a bit of nerd. But as worked my through the education system and tried to find a happy medium between fascination and employability, I ended up studying chemical engineering …” (more)

[An Irish Blog about Education, 29 April]

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Women in science

Posted in Research on March 8th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“A chara, – Dick Ahlstrom’s informative and interesting article on Ireland’s scientists finishes with the exhortation to ‘… have a few more more names for the next table quiz’ (‘Ireland’s stellar contributions go under the radar’, Science Analysis, March 7th). I suggest, on this International Women’s Day, that we also remember Ireland’s female scientists …” (more)

[Bróna Ní Mhuirí, Irish Times, 8 March]

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‘Changing demographics of scientific careers: The rise of the temporary workforce’

Posted in Research on December 11th, 2018 by steve

Abstract: Contemporary science has been characterized by an exponential growth in publications and a rise of team science. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of awarded PhD degrees, which has not been accompanied by a similar expansion in the number of academic positions. In such a competitive environment, an important measure of academic success is the ability to maintain a long active career in science. In this paper, we study workforce trends in three scientific disciplines over half a century. We find dramatic shortening of careers of scientists across all three disciplines. The time over which half of the cohort has left the field has shortened from 35y in the 1960s to only 5y in the 2010s. In addition, we find a rapid rise (from 25 to 60% since the 1960s) of a group of scientists who spend their entire career only as supporting authors without having led a publication. Altogether, the fraction of entering researchers who achieve full careers has diminished, while the class of temporary scientists has escalated. We provide an interpretation of our empirical results in terms of a survival model from which we infer potential factors of success in scientific career survivability. Cohort attrition can be successfully modeled by a relatively simple hazard probability function. Although we find statistically significant trends between survivability and an author’s early productivity, neither productivity nor the citation impact of early work or the level of initial collaboration can serve as a reliable predictor of ultimate survivability.

Changing demographics of scientific careers: The rise of the temporary workforce, Staša Milojević, Filippo Radicchi, and John P Walsh. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA published ahead of print December 10, 2018,

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Are men just better at science than women?

Posted in Research on November 14th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Talk about bad timing. The day after the Government announces that it is creating dozens of ‘woman-only’ professorships in science and engineering a report appears in a respected scientific journal apparently telling us that men are simply better at science …” (more)

[John McManus, Irish Times, 14 November]

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A Sign of Progress

Posted in Teaching on September 1st, 2018 by steve

Ireland“The other day I saw this sign on my way into work the other day. It has been put up near the Science Building on Maynooth University campus, and is a planning notice that hopefully will start the process of constructing extra buildings for science in Maynooth. Among the facilities the new buildings will provide are new teaching laboratories …” (more)

[In the Dark, 1 September]

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Yes, Being a Woman in Science Is Hard. That’s Why We’re Trying to Change It.

Posted in Life on April 7th, 2018 by steve

“Whenever I find myself on a science panel, I brace myself for the inevitable question: ‘Can you talk about your experience with discrimination or abuse as a woman in science?’ It doesn’t matter if I’m on a panel to talk about my expertise as a molecular biologist or one focused specifically on women and minorities in STEM. In both cases, I’m almost always asked to relive my worst experiences as a scientist in front of an audience …” (more)

[Maryam Zaringhalam, Slate, 6 April]

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On quotas in Academia – do we need them?

Posted in Governance and administration on March 25th, 2018 by steve

“As a graduate student I was asked to participate in a ‘women in science’ group. I refused. I was an old(er) grad student compared to my cohort, my goal was to get in and get out as fast as practically possible, so that I could be gainfully employed. I’d spent years working very low-paying jobs and I was over it, anything optional that was going to delay me from finishing my PhD quickly …” (more)

[Sylvia McLainn, Girl, Interrupting, 24 March]

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We must drop the ‘arts’ vs ‘science’ narrative

Posted in Governance and administration on February 28th, 2018 by steve

“Education for the creative industries has been rapidly growing for many years. New and innovative further and higher education courses, such as creative coding and technology and creative business management, have been introduced to keep ahead of the exploding demands of the world we live in …” (more)

[Bashir Makhoul, Times Higher Education, 27 February]

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Universities resist quotas on teacher-training courses

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Governance and administration on February 12th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Third-level colleges are resisting plans by Minister for Education Richard Bruton to introduce quotas on the number of teachers they train in specific subjects. As part of a series of measures to boost the supply of teachers in key subjects such as science, maths and languages, Mr Bruton has announced plans to introduce subject quotas for postgraduate teacher education programmes at second level …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 12 February]

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