Monthly Archives: November 2012

Petition to the Irish Govt. is LIVE on Change.org

We have drafted a petition to the Irish government which we have just posted on Change.org. Taking input from the science community and the public, we have identified four points that the Irish government should address.

I, the undersigned, request of the Irish government:

1. Not to cut the science budget, which is already well below the European Union’s goals, relative to GDP and GNP.

2. Restore fundamental research to Ireland’s priorities by amending the 14 priority areas that are specified in the NRPE document to include fundamental research as one of the areas.

3. Maintain the IRC as a source of funding for fundamental research, and increase its budget, allowing it to fund continuing postdoctoral research and collaborative research projects.

4. Restore the Chief Science Adviser post as an independent adviser to the government on issues related to public science policy.

If you agree with the petition, please sign it.

The full text of the petition letter:

To: The Deparment of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation (Minister Sean Sherlock & Minister Richard Bruton & Main Department)

I, the undersigned, petition the Government to recognise that science is vital to Ireland and to not reduce the support for both fundamental and applied scientific research.

Firstly, I would like to note appreciation for the continuing government efforts to fund scientific research and see this as essential to Ireland’s economic recovery.

However, the current distribution of funding marginalises the fundamental sciences (e.g., pure maths, evolutionary biology, astronomy, particle physics, geophysics, etc.). Fundamental research is part of a knowledge ecosystem that links universities to industry and to Irish society as a whole. Fundamental research underpins applied research, which leads to industry links – these areas are all connected and cannot produce results alone.

The Forfás National Research Prioritisation Exercise (NRPE) report recommends funding research in 14 commercially-focused areas. In addition, it recommends support for Ireland’s growing reputation in fundamental research. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) has excluded important areas of fundamental research from its remit since the publication of the NRPE. The majority of Irish Research Council (IRC) science funding (a fraction of SFI’s budget) is open to fundamental research, but there is fear that the IRC could eventually follow suit.

Lastly, since the Office of the Chief Science Adviser was recently abolished, Ireland has lost its primary independent voice on scientific matters. The duties of the CSA have been transferred to the Director General of SFI, who already has a significant workload and will not be in a position to devote the required time to high-level science policy matters. This change also gives the potential for a major conflict of interest.

I, the undersigned, request of the Irish government:

1. Not to cut the science budget, which is already well below the European Union’s goals, relative to GDP and GNP.

2. Restore fundamental research to Ireland’s priorities by amending the 14 priority areas that are specified in the NRPE document to include fundamental research as one of the areas.

3. Maintain the IRC as a source of funding for fundamental research, and increase its budget, allowing it to fund continuing postdoctoral research and collaborative research projects.

4. Restore the Chief Science Adviser post as an independent adviser to the government on issues related to public science policy.

I believe this will provide a more balanced and unbiased approach to research and the acquisition of new knowledge for the benefit of our nation.

Sincerely,
[Your name]

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Results of the RIA Science Funding Debate

Last month a debate was held at the Royal Irish Academy to address the issues being raised by the research community, regarding recent changes to government policies for science funding. Members of the government (e.g., Minister Sean Sherlock), funding bodies (e.g., SFI & IRC), and the leading members of the research community came together to voice their opinions on topics such as the recent push for funding prioritisation of research areas.

There was limited coverage on Twitter and in the press.

Irish Times Article – “Uncertainty expands when there is a vacuum of trust”

ResearchResearch.com Article – “Academics and agencies discuss funding concerns”

The Royal Irish Academy, who hosted the event, has just published its report summarising what was discussed.

The conclusions state, “There was an acknowledgement that the system has been transformed, and of the importance of the human capital. There was a concern to establish balance across the system on the basis of the very broad value of the full range of research to our society and also recognition that there is not, currently, a national strategy for research in place.”

The head of the RIA, Luke Drury has simultaneously offered a personal assessment of “Publicly Funded Research” in Ireland, partially in response to the funding debate.

He writes, “This article draws on my experience of the recent dialogue meeting on national research funding and reflects the views of myself and the Academy officers. It was obvious by the end of that meeting that gaps are opening up in the funding system and that there is a lack of any joined-up top-level vision for the national research system as well as a dearth of evidencebased policy implementation.”

LoveIrishScience Flyer: SFI Excludes Research for Knowledge in Funding Remit

LoveIrishScience has decided to release this flyer as Science Foundation Ireland announces Agenda 2020. The research community continues to express frustration and explain that the document will damage science, as 100% of SFI funding will be focused on the 14 priority areas listed on our flyer. The SFI Summit continues today, with research prioritisation being discussed this morning.

LoveIrishScience flyer on research prioritisation.
Click for PDF version.