Secondary school students representing all the Provinces of Ireland participated in the final of the Debating Science Issues (DSI) competition on Thursday April 2nd, at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin. After several closely fought debates from four teams representing the provinces of Connaught, Ulster, Leinster and Munster, St. Mary’s Secondary School from Macroom, Co. Cork emerged as the All-Ireland winners.
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. The All-Ireland final involved students debating the motion that ‘Opposing evidence-based theories such as evolution damages all science’.
Other national finalists included St. Dominic’s High School, Santa Sabina, Sutton, Co. Dublin, Belfast High School, Belfast City, St. Attracta’s Community School, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo.
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. Debates in the national finals involved students defending their arguments on the scientific and ethical implications of both embryonic stem cell research and evolution theory.
This All Ireland competition is unique in involving a number of research centres and secondary schools from both the Republic and Northern Ireland; REMEDI, NUI Galway; Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre and TYNDALL Institute, UCC; Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, DCU; Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Dublin and W5 in Belfast.
Judges on the day included Lorcan O’Raghallaigh of Discover Science & Engineering; Dr. John Denari of IRCSET; Bridget Kelly of CLARITY, UCD; Tom Ziessen, Public Engagement advisor of the Wellcome Trust; Dr. Annie Curtis of Science Foundation Ireland; Greg Smith of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth; Emily de Grae of the Irish Council for Bioethics; Dr. Jennifer Ralph from SFI and Dr. Charlotte Holland of Dublin City University.
A member of the judging panel, Dr Annie Curtis, Scientific Programme Manager, SFI, commented “This debate competition is a an excellent example of the education and outreach programmes being carried out by the SFI CSETs. This collaborative approach to education and outreach is key to encouraging young people to consider career opportunities in science and engineering. It is important that we attract young people into careers in science and engineering as Ireland’s future economic success is dependent on having this highly skilled workforce”.
"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”.
For more information on Debating Science Issues, click here