NUI Galway Science Initiatives Win Public Engagement and Education Funding Awards

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Making a video for ReelLIFE SCIENCE are pictured l-r: Juan Garcia Salamanca, Alix Lanthiez and Julia
Making a video for ReelLIFE SCIENCE are pictured l-r: Juan Garcia Salamanca, Alix Lanthiez and Juliana Keeya. Photo: Patrick Henaghan

Three NUI Galway based programmes will engage more than 385,000 members of the Irish public with science in 2021

Three NUI Galway public engagement and education outreach initiatives have been awarded funding of more than €339,000 through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme. It will fund projects dedicated to inspiring and empowering over 385,000 members of the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

The funding awards were announced by Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, as part of a national investment of €5.2 million through the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme.

NUI Galway Funded Projects

Cell EXPLORERS (€267, 636 funding award)
Cell EXPLORERS is a successful science education and public engagement programme locally delivering educational science outreach activities to school children and the Irish public. Led by Dr Muriel Grenon, College of Science and Engineering, the programme has the dual benefit of engaging children and the public, while developing graduate student and researchers’ public engagement skills in a way and at a scale that is unique in Ireland. It has reached more than 38,500 members of the public and involved more than 2,250 team members since its creation in 2012.

In 2021 and 2022, the programme will run school visits and tailored activities nationally, through its network of 13 teams based in 15 institutes of technology and universities. New partnerships will include the Galway STEAM Project (a joint TUSLA and Foróige project) to provide better reach to those who do not typically engage with STEM. 

The programme‘s research shows that many children (aged 10-12 years) have narrow and stereotypical views of what a scientist does and have had few opportunities to meet a scientist. Drawing from these findings and others Cell EXPLORERS will revise both its activities and practices by applying the Science Capital Teaching Approach, a specific way of teaching that employs social justice methods designed to both broaden young peoples’ views of what it means to be a scientist, and widen participation in Science. See www.cellexplorers.com.

CÚRAM ‘Science Waves' Project (€43,719funding award)
CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices will run an education and public engagement programme that aims to raise awareness of its research and increase understanding of preventative behaviours which can reduce the incidence of chronic illness. 

The current Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for members of the public to better understand science and its impact on their lives. More than ever, there is a greater need for clear science communication. However, the pandemic has exposed the existing divide amongst children who have access to learning material online and those who don't.

CÚRAM’s Science Waves project led by Andrea Fitzpatrick, aims to create content which is accessible to everyone and gives clear information about science. Science Waves is a series of six science radio shows co-created by children and scientists for children. CÚRAM will work with children from underrepresented communities to create accessible, engaging, and fun radio shows, which are aimed at children aged 10–12 years old. The radio shows will broadcast later this year on the NUI Galway student radio station, Flirt FM, and will also be released through the CRAOL network of community radio stations. See www.curamdevices.com.

ReelLIFE SCIENCE (€27,987 funding award)
ReelLIFE SCIENCE is a nationwide science video competition, which encourages young people and the general public to discover more about STEM and its impact on individuals, society and the environment, while developing their creativity, communication and digital skills. Young people from schools and youth organisations are challenged to research a STEM topic and communicate it to the public through an engaging and educational three-minute video.

Led by Dr Enda O’Connell, College of Science and Engineering, ReelLIFE SCIENCE has enabled more than 16,000 young people from 500 schools and youth organisations all over the country, to engage with STEM in a novel way. In 2021, ReelLIFE SCIENCE will continue to engage students and teachers in primary and secondary schools across Ireland, while also specifically targeting, training and empowering youth workers and leaders in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon youth organisations. 

The deadline for submitting this year’s three-minute video entries is Friday, 15 October with the best videos awarded €1,000 and will be screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in NUI Galway. See www.reellifescience.com.

Professor Jim Livesey, Vice President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway, said: “Outreach and public engagement are integral to research at NUI Galway. Engagement is a feature of all stages of research, and we value the insight we derive into the pressing scientific and social questions from our partners. Openness is one of our core strategic values. Open research is a proven path to inspire young minds to take on the challenges posed by the sciences and to creatively approach the evident social issues of the moment. These excellent and innovative programmes will create new energy, inspire young people to aspire to careers in the sciences, and broadcast the standards of excellence the community expects of us. I thank Science Foundation Ireland for their support of these programmes and look forward to the events and activities that are planned.”

Speaking about the announcement Minister Harris, said: “I am delighted to announce the 49 projects that will receive funding through the SFI Discover Programme. As we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, we are more conscious than ever of the importance of supporting the public to have access to and to understand the issues that impact our collective future, and the role science and technology can play in providing solutions. These projects will play a role in starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas. I wish all the recipients every success in the roll out of their projects.”

Science Foundation Ireland has invested in public engagement projects through the Discover Programme since 2013. This year’s funded initiatives are estimated to reach a wide audience of people in STEM Topic, while 49 diverse initiatives will be supported by this year’s programme, with successful awardees being carefully selected through international peer-review.

-Ends-

Keywords: Press.

Author: Marketing and Communications Office, NUI Galway
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