Blogging, for me, is an opportunity to reveal the wonders of the natural world to all age groups and bring to light the vast multiplicity that exists in the world of science, nature, technology and engineering. It is about promoting critical thinking and questioning skills, informing and enthusing and, specifically as a teacher, it’s about dispelling the view of science as stagnant and dormant, as portrayed by our inadequate science curricula. Science is an ever evolving field, where individuals seek the truth and aim to solve our society and world problems through investigation, experimentation and exploration.
Science is now more important to the Irish public than ever before, as our government finally begins to see the value of scientific research in the face of economic meltdown. Over the coming years and decades, our government aims to create a “smart economy”, with Irish people working in science, technology, engineering and other cutting edge fields. Ireland’s young people are now being encouraged to study science and related courses in university and, for this reason, it is extremely important that good science communication be available to the Irish public.
Ireland is awash with excellent science communicators. Established science bloggers like Eoin Lettice, Mary Mulvihill, Shane O’Meara*, Sean Duke, James McInerney, Cormac O’Raifeartaigh, Marie Boran, Cormac Sheridan, Diarmaid Mac Mathúna, Noel Cunningham and Michael Seery do an excellent job promoting their fields. The Irish Times science team, which includes Dick Ahlstrom, Claire O’Connell and William Reville, are the sole national media organisation to have a devoted science section. The science message is getting out there, but I ask one question, is its message reaching a wide enough audience?
Not meaning to offend anyone, science blogs have a specific followership – generally those already with an interest in science – and every blogger / writer wants to improve their readership figures. Our national broadcaster, RTÉ, is doing little to promote the sciences to a general audience (unlike the BBC) and it is being left to science blogs and a few other publications (like the Irish Times and Science Spin) to enthuse, inform and promote the work of Irish researchers. Of course, I must mention the brilliant work of Discover Science and Engineering and the wonderful Science Gallery in the elevation of science communication in Ireland too.
What I wish to propose is this – a central network of Irish science bloggers similar in structure to the newly launched Guardian Science Blogs. Such a network would provide a medium for the provision of science news and stories relevant to the Irish public. All that would be required are five or six principal writers, each with a specific remit, contributing one or two accessible pieces per week. Of course, there should also be scope for guest bloggers too, providing the Irish public with a vibrant platform for learning, debate and entertainment.
The most effective way to introduce such a network would be through an already well established and highly trafficked platform – ideally a national newspaper like the Irish Times, Irish Independent etc. The Irish Times immediately comes to my mind, as it is the only Irish newspaper and media website with a dedicated science section.
I don’t mean to sound preachy on this – I am just a lowly science teacher after all – so I would like to invite anyone to comment on the idea and provide suggestions for its implementation, should consensus be established on the value of such a network (Please be aware that the Frog Blog is aimed at science enthusiasts of all ages so comments are moderated). Ireland needs good science communication right now and, I believe, it is time for science communicators to work together and unite in the promotion of science.