Thirty Years of Science Communication and Popularisation in Ireland

May 2010 – By Professor William Reville, University College Cork

Until relatively recent times science communication to the general public by scientists was somewhat frowned on in academic circles. If you wrote popular articles about your work or about science in general you risked being categorised by your colleagues as a ‘mere populariser’. Happily that is all behind us today and scientists are both encouraged and expected to promote science on the public stage.

Most of the pressure nowadays on scientists to communicate with the public comes from Government through the science funding agencies. The Government is interested in promoting science for economic reasons. It has lately been converted to the realisation that the world runs on science-based technology and that Ireland’s future economic prospects are entirely dependent on this technology. The Government’s plan is to develop a ‘smart economy’ in Ireland, ie. an economy running on science-based innovation. Hence the generous funding of science and technology over the last 15 years and the emphasis on science promotion.

Until relatively recent times science communication to the general public by scientists was somewhat frowned on in academic circles. If you wrote popular articles about your work or about science in general you risked being categorised by your colleagues as a ‘mere populariser’. Happily that is all behind us today and scientists are both encouraged and expected to promote science on the public stage.

Most of the pressure nowadays on scientists to communicate with the public comes from Government through the science funding agencies. The Government is interested in promoting science for economic reasons. It has lately been converted to the realisation that the world runs on science-based technology and that Ireland’s future economic prospects are entirely dependent on this technology. The Government’s plan is to develop a ‘smart economy’ in Ireland, ie. an economy running on science-based innovation. Hence the generous funding of science and technology over the last 15 years and the emphasis on science promotion.

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