Hosting the Olympics of Science


How would you imagine a Science Olympics? The best of the world in one place for a short period of time. Lifelong commitment, passion, shining on the world stage. A battle of the minds. Yesterday at the launch of the Dublin City of Science 2012, Minister Richard Bruton compared the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) with an “Olympics of Science” so I wondered could it live up to this aspiring analogy.

The Bidding Process

A strong bid by Dublin resulted in us beating rival city Vienna to host the largest European science conference in 2012. Chief Scientific Advisor, Patrick Cunningham (pictured above), made us aware that we had a running start as “the committee of ten who evaluated the application voted unanimously for Dublin”.

Training Camps

The ESOF conference takes place in July but Dublin City of Science runs throughout 2012 with over 160 events organised nationwide. These include exhibitions in the Science Gallery such as Edible opening next month, the first annual Dublin Maker Faire and a science-themed St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Humphrey Jones (@TheFrogBlog), Ellen Byrne (@NellieNeutron) and Martin McKenna (@martinjmckenna) caught in the act!

Additional Sports

The organising committee has incorporated Ireland’s long history of arts and culture into Dublin City of Science. Film, theatre, music and art feature on the bill. Events include the Dublin Theatre Festival incorporating a scientifically themed strand in its 2012 programme. Secondary students will be contemplating about the future of humans through a year-long project which will be run by the Irish Film Institute in 11 venues nationwide.

Boosting Local Economy

Hosting such a global science event will be a great opportunity to showcase Irish science. This bodes well for future foreign investment. As does increased engagement between policy makers and the scientific community. The launch yesterday was evidence of this with researchers, media, science communicators and policy makers as well as the odd comedian (Dara O’Briain was MC) all in the same room enthusiastically discussing science. Encouraging students to study science will hopefully be another much-needed result of the increased publicity and events throughout the year.

Battle of the Minds: Representing Ireland... Dara O'Briain and Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

Torch Relay

The message of Dublin City of Science is being spread by wonderful ambassadors such as Dara O’Briain and Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin. O’Briain remarked how the high viewership of the recent BBC Stargazing Live series showed there is an appetite for real science in the general public. Ní Shúilleabháin hoped that this year would be used to promote women in science. It’s all about “taking the fear out of the S word”.

100m Sprint

Nobel Laureates are the Usain Bolts of science and they are among the keynote speakers at the ESOF conference in July. Included in this prestigious group is the newly crowned Jules Hoffmann who was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. One notable group of scientists striving to beat world records in the past few months are those working at CERN. As the search for the Higgs boson continues, it is exciting to have their Director General, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, speaking at the ESOF conference in July. He might even have an announcement… too much to ask??

The Aftermath

When it’s all over and the various event and conference brochures are gathering dust, will we be any different? For me, this is the key! ESOF and Dublin City of Science 2012 are the ideal opportunity for the entire Irish science community to show how innovative and world-class we are. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin put it perfectly when she said that it is the time to “create a dialogue”. I witnessed an Irish record being broken today as Dublin was declared a City of Science but using this occasion to develop Ireland as a nation of science could enable us to conquer the world.

For more information about Dublin City of Science events and the Euroscience Open Forum visit the newly designed website www.dublinscience2012.ie.