05/08/2021

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Covid-19 pandemic expert Luke O'Neill set for midlands science events

Midlands Science project aims to connect communities

coronavirus covid-19

Prof Luke O'Neill

Covid-19 pandemic expert Luke O’ Neill has signed up for a new science series in the midlands.

Local development company, Midlands Science is pleased to announce Science Communities, the exciting new project which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Discover Award programme and is designed to build impactful dialogue and discussion between community groups in the Midlands and those involved in science and public policy. 

Mr O'Neill, who is a Professor of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, will explore the following topics in three upcoming fora: 

  • Show me the Evidence - Exploring Science & Scientific Evidence 
  • Sugar, Spice & everything Science - The Science of Food & Alcohol  
  • Viruses, Vaccines and Immunity - The Science of Diseases 
  • Medicine and Health - Who and how we can trust? 

Midland Science says the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how science and science-based decision-making has a powerful effect on our future economic and social wellbeing. It has also taught us about the importance of trusting science, fostering connection and having high-quality dialogue and shared learning. 

Jackie Gorman is CEO of Midlands Science.   

"In order to have an engaged public, it is important to recognise that science is not limited to formal education and is not just a collection of facts. It should also allow people to challenge what they read and hear about. Through community forums, we want to create a realistic and open conversation about  the science behind decisions, how scientific evidence informs public health advice and how this information is communicated to the general public. We want to explore where there could be misinformation and resistance among the general public and use this as an opportunity for people to become more informed.

"We will be encouraging open debate and effective conversation between members of the public, experts from the fields of science and health care and the policymakers in our society. We are keen to be as inclusive as possible and we will therefore be aiming to have a broad range of people from across the Midlands taking part in these forums which will explore a range of issues from food and alcohol to diseases and positive psychology and much more.

“We are now seeking people from the Midlands to engage with this project. If you are interested in facilitating discussions and taking in part in open dialogue with others around the topics of health, pandemics, science-based decision making, communication and misinformation, we would like to hear from you. 

"We will be asking a small number of participants to take part in interviews at different stages and this will be crucial to reviewing the overall success of the project but it is not necessary to have any prior knowledge of science in order to partake. We are looking for a broad range of people from the midlands to participate and we are particularly interested in engaging people who would not usually interact with science or STEM in their everyday lives,” she said. 

As an additional support, all ‘Science Communities’ participants will be offered free training in LIFT facilitation skills. LIFT is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to increase the level of positive leadership in Ireland.  This project is a collaborative opportunity for people to enhance their skills and enable themselves to become leaders of science engagement in their communities. It will consist of four public engagement forums and one LIFT training day.

Given the current restrictions that are still in place nationwide, these public engagement forums and training days will take place online.

The project will run during the months of August, September, October and November.  

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said:  “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support this Science Communities initiative, facilitating open dialogue at a time when understanding how scientific evidence informs public health advice is so important. This inclusive approach to science outreach will hopefully help members of the public feel more informed and more connected to the science behind public health policy, while allowing policy makers to build confidence and trust, by listening to and engaging with the public.” 

If you are interested in taking part in this project please email outreach@midlandsscience.ie 

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