Irish Science BlogsPublished 29 September 2010
There are lots of Irish science blogs nowadays where you can keep up with what’s happening in the world of science and find out what issues people are discussing.
These bloggers range from scientists and science teachers to members of the public who have an interest in science.
To give you a flavour of what’s out there, have a look at these ones we’ve come across…
Antimatter, by physics lecturer and Science Ambassador Cormac O’Raifeartaigh
Chris Horn, leading Irish electronics engineer, entrepreneur and STEM policy expert
Communicate Science, by our Science Ambassador Eoin Lettice
The Frog Blog – St Columba’s College Science blog
Irish Science – this is by a group of contributors
James McInerney, evolutionary biologist
Karlin Lillington, technology journalist
Mary Mulvihill, science journalist
Michael Seery, lecturer in physical chemistry (his blog is called “Is This Going To Be On The Exam?”)
Science Communication Review by Diarmaid Mac Mathúna
The Science Gallery blog
Science Line by science journalist Cormac Sheridan
Science Spinning, by Seán Duke
The Strange Quark by Marie Boran
TeachNet Learning Blog
Think For Yourself by physics teacher Noel Cunningham
Using ICT in Further Education by Patricia Donaghy, ICT teacher
Last but not least, don’t forget to check out our own blog at MyScience.ie
The Economist has a fascinating article on where the World’s leading universities are headed.
The best American universities are nothing like the stereotype of isolated ivory towers. Take the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), founded in 1861 to accelerate the industrialisation of America. Its ties with business are now intimate and global. Companies fund much of its research. Staff and students collaborate with established firms and set up a prodigious number of their own. A study in 2009 by the Kauffman Foundation, a think-tank in Missouri, estimated that MIT alumni had founded 25,800 companies that were still active, employing 3.3m people and generating annual sales of $2 trillion. “It’s a very entrepreneurial culture,” says Susan Hockfield, MIT’s president.
Will the Hunt Report deliver institutions of this type here in Ireland? (Me too).
Posted by David Boaz
Matt Ridley’s new book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, is garnering rave reviews. Ridley, science writer and popularizer of evolutionary psychology, shows how it was trade and specialization of labor–and the resulting massive growth in technological sophistication–that hauled humanity from its impoverished past to its comparatively rich present. These trends will continue, he argues, and will solve many of today’s most pressing problems, from the spread of disease to the threat of climate change.
The Cato Institute has now presented three different looks at the book, with a review in the Cato Journal, another in Regulation, and an event at Cato with Matt Ridley himself.
FWIW, it is one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year, and a great counter to the pervasive misery-mongering rife. The tagline ‘ideas having sex’ is a great metaphor for the advancement of knowledge. Here is his TED talk – well worth watching.
A very disturbing story from The Economist regarding the past, present and especially the future of PhDs.
‘… the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.’
Great post on ‘The World Of Big Data’ by Andrew Sullivan -reproduced in full below.
In passing, a Government truly interested in developing the smart economy would engage in massive data dumps with the presumption that just about every piece of data it holds (excluding the most sensitive pieces of information) from ministerial diaries to fuel consumption records for Garda cars to activity logs for mobile phones to numbers of toilet rolls used in Government Departments would be dumped in realtime on to externally-interrrogable databases. This would be geek-heaven and would generate new technological applications beyond prediction and application. And the activity would be local – could an analyst sitting in Taiwan really make sense of local nuances? The applications would be universal, portable and saleable, however. They would seed a local high-tech industry – maybe even a local Irish Google. Can’t see the Civil Service going for it, though…
Elizabeth Pisani explains (pdf) why large amounts of data collected by organizations like Google and Facebook could change science for the better, and how it already has. Here she recounts the work of John Graunt from the 17th century:
Graunt collected mortality rolls and other parish records and, in effect, threw them at the wall, looking for patterns in births, deaths, weather and commerce. … He scraped parish rolls for insights in the same way as today’s data miners transmute the dross of our Twitter feeds into gold for marketing departments. Graunt made observations on everything from polygamy to traffic congestion in London, concluding: “That the old Streets are unfit for the present frequency of Coaches… That the opinions of Plagues accompanying the Entrance of Kings, is false and seditious; That London, the Metropolis of England, is perhaps a Head too big for the Body, and possibly too strong.”She concludes:
A big advantage of Big Data research is that algorithms, scraping, mining and mashing are usually low cost, once you’ve paid the nerds’ salaries. And the data itself is often droppings produced by an existing activity. “You may as well just let the boffins go at it. They’re not going to hurt anyone, and they may just come up with something useful,” said [Joe] Cain.
We still measure impact and dole out funding on the basis of papers published in peerreviewed journals. It’s a system which works well for thought-bubble experiments but is ill-suited to the Big Data world. We need new ways of sorting the wheat from the chaff, and of rewarding collaborative, speculative science.
[UPDATE] Something I noticed in The Irish Times:
PUBLIC SECTOR: It’s ‘plus ca change’ in the public service sector, as senior civil servants cling to cronyism and outdated attitudes, writes GERALD FLYNN:
…it seems now that it was just more empty promises – repeating similar pledges given in 2008. As we come to the end of yet another year, there is still no new senior public service structure; no chief information officer for e-government has been appointed; no reconstitution of top-level appointments has taken place; and no new public service board has been appointed [emphasis added].
So nothing will happen.
The graphics are fantastic, and the plan itself is short and sweet.
Our animating ethos rests on the belief that major and fundamental research problems are best solved by combining research strengths across disciplines and levels of analysis.
Combining our strengths in this way will allow us to deliver major scientific discoveries of great consequence for human health, welfare and knowledge.
Table of Contents:
- Why Explore the Brain? [Our short, simple answer: ‘Understanding the structure and functions of our brains brings us a good way along the path of understanding ourselves as humans. Progress in understanding the nervous system materially benefits human health, welfare and knowledge.‘]
- Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience Mission
- Transformative Neuroscience
- Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience Today
- Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience Tomorrow
- Research Focus 1: Synapses, Cognition and Behaviour
- Research Focus 2: Neuropsychiatry and Neurodevelopmental Disorders
- Research Focus 3: Neurodegeneration, Neuroprotection and Neuroplasticity
- Platform Technologies: Imaging and Neural Engineering
- Contribution to Society and Outreach
- Future Opportunities
- Measuring Impact: Hard and Soft Metrics
- Final Thoughts
Here’s disturbing story from the UK (reg req):
Recession-hit companies scale back university liaison offices
Universities could find it more difficult to find industry research partners as hi-tech companies look to scale back or close their academic liaison departments in the wake of the financial crisis.
And a quote:
The defence technology company QinetiQ, spun out of the government’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 2001, has closed its central academic liaison department. And within the past few months, the mobile telecoms company Vodaphone has moved its academic cooperation work into a single office in Germany. Previously, academic liaison was handled by a team scattered across different countries including Germany, the UK and Spain.
This has to be a concern if it is generally true: the idea that industry-academic partnerships are a good thing is reasonable on the face of it, but if industry decides it’s not interested, then what…?
A previous post here gives a very different perspective on how such interactions might actually evolve.