Monthly Archives: October 2012

Upcoming LoveIrishScience Planning Meeting – 5-Nov-2012

On Monday the 5th of November, there will be a LoveIrishScience meeting in the Lecture Room of the SNIAM Building at TCD from 15:30-17:00.

This meeting will follow from the 31-Oct-2012 meeting, where we planned our public talk (ASGI, Nov. 9th) and decided how to break down the work between us. On Monday’s meeting we will combine the slides created by each person and polish the talk.

We will also try to define some objectives for LoveIrishScience, as far as what we want the government to actually do. These objectives will form the talks conclusion and hopefully spur discussion in the audience.


Planning Meeting 31-10-2012

There will be a planning meeting tomorrow at TCD at 3:30. See our mailing list for details.


–Government Chief Science Advisor position abolished
–LoveIrishScience to publish guest blog post on Science Calling!

-Continue developing infographic
–Data based on documents.

-Continue working on public talks
–Nov. 9th @ ASGI, Galway
–Nov. 15th @ TOG, Dublin

Planning Meeting Minutes – 2012-10-23

These are the minutes of the planning meeting on 2012-10-23 based on this Agenda.

The overall outcome of the meeting is that there are a lot of anti-fundamental-research points laid out in the prioritisation document. The current Irish research budget reflects this. At the next meeting we will define the hard numbers of how much fundamental research is funded, and put together a talk outline for our upcoming presentations.


-We want head (chair) of IRC to be a scientist, not an industry person… Keep IRC focused on fundamental research.

-Get IRC to develop a scheme for 2nd level postdocs- >32k- should increase with inflation.
-there is no career prospects for soft money researchers in ireland.

-we are giving a talk at ASGI, nov 9th

-Giving a talk at TOG, nov 15th

Documents Discussion

Ireland budget (2011) – Aidan

2.4B in STI – govt funding (total is 7% less than 2010)
what % of total budget? 60B?
2002-2009 rises, then drops.
-Pie chart of spending in STI (education and training dropped by 17% )
–Education and training includes what funding bodies??
STI: 1.3-2% rise over last 5 yrs, -.12% drop (2010-2011)
GNP = 126B

Table of break down of R&D
HEA gets 309M (1/3 of R&D)
SFI gets…
IRC gets…
IDA, gets…

GBoard – measure of govt fundiing as % of GNP
-needs to be corrected to be more honest

Break down of research excluding HEA

GOVERD – govt expendeture on R&D excluding HEA….
-ireland is at the bottom….

applied~97% (includes agriculture etc, so not science)

Eoin – budget cont’d

8.9B -> Public Services
—-1.29B -> given to universities

50M taken from HEA, givesn to dept. of jobs (PRTLI)
HEA is driven to fund basic science/ academia. Why given to jobs??

The only basic science funding not in universities is the ~4M DIAS gets (??? is that correct?)
DIAS gets 3% of science budget, 3% of science funding is basic. Is that the same 3%??

IRC gets 23M (how much is basic/applied)

SFI is under dept of jobs. Given money for basic research? Why under jobs?

14M to ESA under Dept of jobs
How much should we be able to / have spent in Ireland of that money? ie. how much of 14M comes back into ireland?

Forfas: >2M -> 20% goes to chief science advisor. That is a lot of money just to chair a committee…

150M goes to SFI, 30 programs…
SFI 2 programs are basic science
-research frontiers
-math funding
This is completely changed now. (SFI no longer funds basic science even though it was set up to do so)

Neal – forfas research prioritisation

-focus on economic return
-focus on areas where ireland can compete internationally (economically)
-14 priority areas
-SFI now legally has to follow NRPE

-how they prioritise
-need impact w/in 5 years
-research for knowledge should occur, not mentioned in rest of document…
-acknowledge ecosystem of basic->applied
-acknowledge we should pay into large EU projects (cern, lofar)
->SFI is no longer going to fund basic science

Paul – Research prioritisation document cont’d

-accelerate impact of priority areas
-govt to restate the STI priorities
-development of metrics to judge how well things are doing, yearly assessments of research output

Points of interest
-Not just focus on publishing, need to incorporate plans to commercialise research -> how is math supposed to do that?
-Funding applications need to demonstrate adherance to 14 areas
-do cost benefit analysis on schemes -> fundamental research doesn’t work like that!
-Want to reduce over heads for writing grant applications – fund people instead of projects -> projects can fund many people, so wouldn’t funding projects decrease the amount of grant writing??
-research centers to develop industry culture and industry oriented mission -> frightening!
-Note that academic staff should be allowed to progress -> at the moment soft money academic staff have to leave their institution to progress! This is something that needs to be addressed.
-Taking money out of PHD funding and given to developing “industry phd programs” and industry driven masters.
Scary quote:
“PhD and early stage post-doctoral researchers should be able to contribute directly to enterprise creation and job creation through the comercialisation of their research” – How is math supposed to do that??

Description of the 14 areas -> no fundamental science in there!
-Anywhere there is science mentioned, it is to be combined with industry in the key action items

How areas are chosen
-competitiveness of ireland in market area
-how area can complement private sector
-reaction to a national or global challenge that ireland can respond to (that seems reasonable)

Members of the steering group committee
-mostly from industry (intel?, citi bank?!)
3 thematic working groups, none of which are knowledge-based research focused!

Diana – SFI operational plan 2013

60-80% of funding each year goes to funding previous years projects
-> decide to follow NRPE

Action Items

-(diana) look into HTML 5 for website

White Board – Planning meeting.

Agenda for next time:
-Go through making talk for ASGI
-define our goals
–describe current state of irish science funding (fundamental / applied)
-put together an info-graphic
–display the numbers

-put together a petition to government – define our argument and our demands
-publish infographic and talk as a blog post

Upcoming Planning Meeting (@ TCD)

There will be a LoveIrishScience meeting tomorrow (Tuesday Oct 23) in the SNIAM conference room of Trinity College Dublin starting at 2pm. See the mailing list for any updates. Feel free to come along if you would like to contribute to the project in any way or would like to engage in the discussion.

We will be discussing the following statistics provided by Forfas and SFI. The idea is to make sure we all have a good understanding of the numbers that are publicly available before we go gathering them for ourselves. A number of us have split up the reading and will make short informal presentations, summarising the information covered. The relevant documents are linked below:

Forfas Research Prioritisation Exercise Report

Forfas Science Budget 2010-2011

SFI Agenda 2020

SFI Operational Plan 2013

Following the summaries, we will put together our plan for the next step of the project, which will mostly likely entail contacting SFI, HEA, IRC. etc., with requests for more detailed data which were not made apparent in the above documents, or which we believe may not have been clearly presented. If we’re going to develop some sort of infographic on this information, we want to parse the data ourselves.

This is background research for the upcoming LoveIrishScience presentations at ASGI (Nov 9) and TOG Science Week (Nov 15).

After or during all this, any other topics regarding the project are of course open for discussion.

The minutes of this meeting will be published in a follow-up post.


This is an evolving document that lists talks from leading Irish scientists, talks on the current policy of science funding, and talks in support of basic research. If you have links to other interesting talks, please comment below.

Irish Science

From Fruit Flies To Cancer – Luke O’Neill at TEDxDUBLIN

Mother Nature Has The Answer: Emma Teeling at TEDxDUBLIN

Ideas, Where Do They Come From: Aoife McLysaght at TEDxDUBLIN


Collaboration, Competition, Connection – evidence of intelligent design in European science policy? – Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation & Science at ESOF 2012
Link to Video (10:00-30:00).

ESOF 2012 Opening Ceremony – President Michael D. Higgins
Link to Video (10:00-30:00).

In the defense of Funding Basic Science

Carl Sagan on the importance of scientific research

Jocelyn Bell Burnell on the importance of Astronomy

Brian Cox on the internet

Neil deGrasse Tyson on not politicising science

IOP Letters to SFI and the Minister for Research & Innovation Re: SFI’s Agenda 2020 / Strategy 2013 Consultation … and SFI’s Response

During Science Foundation Ireland’s call for consultation on their Agenda 2020 and Strategy 2013 documents a number of interest groups, such as the RIA Committee for Astronomy and Space Sciences, sent letters supporting funding for basic research (which appeared to be diminished in the planned SFI budgets). The institute of Physics also sent letters to both SFI and Ireland’s minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock, TD.

An except from the IOP Letter to SFI:

Science Foundation Ireland Consultation – Strategy Agenda 2020 and Operational Plan for 2013


While welcoming Science Foundation Ireland’s excellence driven agenda, the Institute of Physics calls attention to the apparent lack of any specific funding for excellent research for knowledge (frontiers research), which falls outside the 14 nominated priority research areas. The Institute suggests a specific fund, based on 10% of SFI’s annual budget to be directed towards areas not covered elsewhere in SFI’s budget.

The importance of such research is well-recognised globally as an essential part of supporting science in general and, in particular, leading to long term economic gains. Without it, Ireland runs a considerable risk of losing exceptional talent to overseas competitor nations, reputational damage to our emerging position as an innovative country, the consequent difficulty of attracting world-class researchers and industry here and the very significant demoralising effect on Irish scientists. Even 10% of SFI’s total budget is probably too small to build a competitive scientific community that can win downstream EU funding. In a wider context Ireland should invest 10% of its core science research budget of €500M annually, into basic research.

This response also includes comments on SFI’s public outreach programme and its aims to increase numbers taking science at second-level. The IOP position articulated in this response has broad support from physicists working in industry, applied research and basic research.


An excerpt from the IOP Letter to Minister Sherlock:

Re: SFI Consultation – Strategy Agenda 2020 and Operational Plan for 2013

Dear Minister

The Institute of Physics in Ireland has submitted a response to the SFI Consultation – Strategy Agenda 2020 and Operational Plan for 2013 as attached. We would like firstly to note appreciation for the continuing government efforts to fund science research and see this as essential to Ireland’s economic recovery. Within the budget given, though, we would view with some concern the marginalisation of fundamental research and would particularly ask you to note the following:

1. Research in basic physics produces graduates with significant numerical and technical skills which are in high demand by industry

2. Basic research is part of an eco-system which feeds directly into applied and translational research which lead to direct links to industry – these areas are all interlinked and cannot produce results alone

3. Fundamental physics such as the study of the origins of the universe is a significant driver of interest in science. Students are attracted to those colleges offering expertise in these areas. Colleges cannot provide this expertise without continuity of funding in the relevant research areas.

The report of the National Research Prioritisation Exercise makes clear that such research must continue to be funded along with the recommended priority areas. However it is not clear currently what government agency is tasked with this. We would very much appreciate your attention to this and would be very willing to meet at any time to discuss this further.


On Wednesday, October 17th, SFI hosted a “webinar” to discuss how the Agenda 2020 and Strategy 2013 documents would be altered, in response to input from the consultation. One of the main points is, instead of having 95% of SFI’s funding allocated to the National Research Prioritisation, leaving 5% open for proposals outside of the NRP, now 100% of proposals must fall under the NRP. SFI conceded in the presentation that pure maths is left out of these calls, but that funding for PhDs is the most essential ingredient for pure maths research. So, in response, SFI has plans to introduce a postgraduate funding scheme, where by the student will partner with industry and will likely be required to take business courses.
Listen to the webinar yourself.