Science communication in Ireland

Welcome to this learning resource on Science Communication in Ireland. With your help, we hope to create and maintain a useful overview of activity in this exciting and expanding area of activity.

The aim is to enable people from all over Ireland, and all over the world, to contribute to this resource and add links to new pages describing what they do. If you are involved in some aspect of science communication, please feel free to add details of your latest activity. If you dont know how to edit Wikis, dont worry, its easy. Just click on the 'edit this page' at the top, or, 'edit' under each section below, start typing, and dont forget to press 'save' when you have finised. Take a look at this short film to find out how this process works.

Who are the major players in science communication?


Forfás is the national board responsible for providing policy advice to Government on enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation in Ireland.

Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET)

Science Foundation Ireland supports research in biosciences, biotechnology and information and communication technologies. It is currently considering how science communication can be introduced as a parallel skill for post-doctoral researchers.

What academic departments are involved?


School of Communications, Dublin City University

National University of Galway:

Department of Education

Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI)

What about business and community groups?


Blackrock Castle Observatory ( houses an internationally award-winning interactive exhibition and a working astronomical observatory.

How are activities funded? What initiatives are there?


The Discover Science and Engineering programme seeks to raise the level of perception of science, technology, innovation and engineering, managed by Forfás.

Embark Initiative operated by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET) provides direct financial support for researchers & research students. Its programmes do not target research projects with an industrial or economic focus but instead the emphasis is on innovative, original and exploratory research, aimed at generating new knowledge and energising Ireland's future growth, development and national competitiveness. The programme is working with the AlphaGalileo Foundation to explore the practice and experience of public relations in European and Irish research.

Science Communication Media


We mean media in the general sense here - the manner in which science communication mechanisms are delivered. Why not add to this growing list?

Public lectures


Science journalism








"Northern Star", a BBC One Northern Ireland documentary about the remarkable life of pioneering astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell.





Internet and new media



Science Communication Review by Diarmaid Mac Mathúna, Head of Production at Agtel.

BCO Blog by Colm Ryan on behalf of Blackrock Castle Observatory

Gateways and resources

Ingeniuous Ireland about the inventions, discoveries and natural wonders of Ireland. Stories and interactive learning tools, aided and inspired by the book by Mary Mulvihill.

Science Ireland a resource for people of all ages who are interested in science, including listings of science events, science news, careers information and links to primary science resources.

Science Weeks


Science Week Ireland is held in November.



Cafe Scientfiques


Limerick Institute of Technology

The Alchemist Cafe, Dublin

Cork Science Cafe, Cork

Other events


These are also listed on the Science Ireland website.

Science centres and museums


Blackrock Castle Observatory With over 100,000 visitors since it opened in 2007, Blackrock Castle Observatory - the Space for Science - is a thriving hub of science, culture and public engagement.

Installation and exhibit makers


Science shops


These are small organisations that carry out research in a wide range of disciplines, usually for free, to address the challenges faced by civil society. The emphasis is on the experiences of local communities, and how science shops can help them. Other knowledge transfer mechanisms start with the academic research, and then attempt to 'apply' it in society. With science shops, it is the other way around. Science shops that are attached to universities often bring students into their activities as part of teaching and learning.

Ideas about Science Communication


Experts used to think about science communication as a simple matter of instruction [Royal Society 1985]. It was a long time before this ‘deficit model’ [Wynne 1991] of science communication was replaced by a second generation approach which favoured two-way communications (‘dialogues’) between experts to influence policy or scientific and technological practice (upstream engagement) [Demos 2004]. The mechanisms used to stimulate public participation in science and policy decision are summarised below. But whilst at first sight these two approaches appeared to be very different, they also had much in common: the topic of engagement was chosen, not by citizens themselves, but by elite science or government.

Third generation approaches to engagement take participation one step further, in that they emphasise the need for dialogue, not only to influence the practices of government and science, but also to influence actions chosen by local communities. In other words, science communication is also important for innovation in, and by, society.

Public Engagement Mechanisms


Citizen’s panel Lay public panel meets to discuss issues, statements or refine options

Stakeholder dialogue Open ended, ongoing discussion to identify areas of agreement or disagreement, with communities with an interest in the issue. When managed well, participants determine the agenda.

Stakeholder forum Brings together representatives of key stakeholder groups locally, regionally or nationally. Numbers are usually limited to enable discussion, which can lead to feelings of exclusion.

Stakeholder workshop As above, but task-based.

Round table Discussion forum, sometimes facilitated, used to explore scope and areas of agreement and disagreement. Vulnerable to bias by chair, particularly vocal special interest groups. Transparency problems.

Citizens polls Surveys of more or less representative samples of the population. Reflect bias of question-setter.

Deliberative mapping A method of integrating expert and citizen assessments through face-to-face and computer-enabled dialogues. The process is guided so that participants challenge each other’s perspectives and framing assumptions. The approach can be used to systematically judge how well different options perform according to particular economic, social, ethical and scientific criteria. It is used mostoften with problems that involve multiple factors and require making difficult decisions, frequently without adequate data.

Multi-criteria mapping a novel software-based technique for exploring the links between expert analysis and divergent social values and interests.

Deliberative polling A large, demographically representative group conducts a debate, cross-examining key players. The group is polled on an issue before and after the debate.

Focus group A small group of people discuss an issue guided by a trained facilitator working to a designed protocol. Researchers study the contents of the discussion are studied to investigate shared understandings, attitudes, values and factors that shape these.

Citizen’s jury 12-16 lay people cross-examine expert witnesses, to make a decision, judgement or recommendations. Although not best practice, issues are often framed by commissioning organisation, restricting potential for knowledge exchange.

Discussion groups A small number of people (8-10) engage in facilitated discussion.

Consensus conference Extended information gathering by representative panel of 16 people who request information resources, decide upon questions, cross-examine expert witnesses, and report to the press and the public (over several weekends: longer and more expensive than citizen’s juries) on the consensus.

Lay panel members Non-specialists presence on expert committees. Varying degrees of empowerment, influence and support. Lay members may have an influence the communication skills of experts.

Future search Imagining of preferred futures, and collaborative planning for how to achieve them

Delphi process A set of procedures for eliciting and refining the opinions of a group - usually a panel of experts. An extended method includes lay panel members. It has four basic features: structured questioning, iteration, controlled feedback and anonymity of responses. OSI has used Delphi questionnaires to poll thousands.

‘Planning for real’ Use of 3D models (e.g. cardboard) to represent development plans to engender discussion and comment.

Open house, exhibitions, galleries An open venue for discussion, exhibition or other activity; consultation commissioning body expected to be present to engage in discussion with ‘visitors’.

Public meeting Open meeting with specialists and chair, in formal setting. Usu. Q/A format

Recent Science Communication Policy Developments


Current activity


Courses and skills


In academia:

In media and policy:

Science Communication Newsletters


Science@Culture bulletin by Mary Mulvihill

Resources for further study


Especially for schools and colleges

  • BIONET explore and debate the latest discoveries in life sciences
  • Planet Science resources and information for teachers, to encourage creative and fun approaches to primary and secondary science teaching (UK)

For everyone





Key texts