Secondary School Students Debate Topical Science Issues

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Secondary school students from all over Ireland participated in the inaugural final of the Debating Science Issues (DSI) competition on Friday, 9 May, at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the debating competition is coordinated by the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway in conjunction with science research and discovery centres throughout Ireland.

After several closely fought debates, Ballincollig Community School, Co. Cork, emerged victorious to become the first ever Debating Science Issues winners. Other national finalists included Gort Community College, Co. Galway, St Colman's College Newry, and St Mary's Academy CBS Carlow Town.

DSI is a dynamic debating competition, which invites young people to engage in debate on the cultural, societal and ethical implications of advances in biomedical science. Open to students in the senior cycle of secondary school, the competition provides a great opportunity for students to expand their communication and scientific skills.

This All-Ireland competition is unique in involving a number of research centres and secondary schools throughout the country; REMEDI, NUI Galway; Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, UCC; Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, DCU; CRANN in Trinity College Dublin; RCSI, Dublin and W5 in Belfast.

Judges on the day included Frank Gannon, SFI; Brian Trench, Head of School of Communications, DCU; Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor, The Irish Times; Siobhan O' Sullivan, The Irish Council for Bioethics; Tom Kennedy, Editor of Science Spin; Oonagh Meighan, Discover Science and Engineering and Cormac Sheridan, Science Journalist.

"We hope that this collaborative outreach competition will be a useful tool in facilitating increased awareness of the important research taking place in Ireland among young people and the Irish public in general", said Professor Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI. "It is imperative, however, that this is not one-way traffic. While it is important for research centres to communicate to the public, it is equally important for us, as scientists, to listen to what the public, including young people, think of our work. At a time when scientific research itself is taking so many different directions, it is critical that we open the doors for discussion so that we can ensure that everyone has their say on the societal and ethical implications of biomedical research".

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