Catching up with SFI in the news

After a few very busy weeks, and little or no blogging, I had an opportunity to catch up on some recent articles related to SFI in the news over the weekend. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are a few of the stories that caught my attention:



Not specifically SFI related, but there’s a very interesting piece by Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times from a few weeks back about Universities having a lot to learn about start-ups.

“We’re still not obtaining any Irish high performance companies despite the efforts of funding research and technology transfer through organisations such as Science Foundation Ireland,” he [Dr. Rory O'Shea of the UCD School of Business] says. “When you really look at the companies, most are lifestyle companies, add-on consulting companies, rather than high impact companies.”

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Travelling in China

Here’s a fascinating piece about the measures that many companies and government organisations are taking when their employees visit China, Russia and some other countries carrying electronic devices:

McAfee, the security company, said that if any employee’s device was inspected at the Chinese border, it could never be plugged into McAfee’s network again. Ever. “We just wouldn’t take the risk,” said Simon Hunt, a vice president.


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SFI gets a new Director General

This is probably old news for anybody who follows this blog, but on Monday Science Foundation Ireland announced a new Director General: Prof. Mark Ferguson. Prof. Ferguson is formerly of Manchester University and is the co-founder of Renovo.

From the official press release:

Welcoming Prof. Ferguson’s appointment, Prof. Pat Fottrell, Chairperson of SFI, said “The SFI Board is delighted, following an extensive international recruitment process that commenced last year, to appoint Prof. Ferguson as Director General. Prof. Ferguson’s track record over the past three decades has been one of continued excellence in both the academic and commercial spheres, and his arrival marks the start of a new stage in SFI’s journey.”

Commenting on his appointment, Prof. Ferguson stated: “We live in exciting times for science, where endeavour and ingenuity are making a notable impact on the world around us. Through determination, sustained investment and the convergence of expertise across scientific, engineering and commercial disciplines, Ireland has leaped up the international rankings for its quality of research output. I am relishing the opportunity of working closely with SFI’s Board, staff, esteemed research community, commercial and other partners, to help continue this level of progress and influence. I am passionate about science, its commercial exploitation and its societal and economic benefits.”

Also covered in the Irish Times, RTE News, InsideIreland and many other venues.

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Science Gallery gets Google funding

HomeI’ve previously written briefly about the Science Gallery based in TCD. I’ve taken my kids there a couple of times, and they have always enjoyed it.

Well, apparently, Google has granted a €1m award to the Science Gallery for the development of a Global Science Gallery Network. Excellent news, and a fantastic coup for Michael John Gorman and his team at the Gallery.

This story also gets coverage on the RTE News site and the Irish Times.

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ScienceInsider comments on SFI budget

ScienceInsider has a small piece commenting on SFI’s 2012 budget. This figure has been published at a national level for a few weeks, but it’s the first mention of it that I’ve seen in the international science press.

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Government Document on Public Sector Reform

The Irish Government today published a document entitled Public Service Reform. This document sets out a strategy as to how the Government intends to update or reform the public and civil service over the coming years.

It’s not my place to comment on the nature of the reforms, or whether I agree or disagree with them, but I will highlight some proposed reforms outlined in the “Rationalisation of State Agencies” appendix to the document that might be of interest to those of us in the scientific community in Ireland. The following extracts are taken verbatim from the report:

  • Merge Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology & Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science into consolidated single council under HEA
  • Establish the scope to merge Forfás into the Department
  • Merge the Digital Hub Development Authority with Enterprise Ireland/IDA
  • Commission for Communication Regulation: Merge with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
  • Expert Group on Future Skills Needs: Absorb into Department (Education).
  • Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation: Absorb into Department (DJEI).
  • Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government: Examine absorbing into Science Foundation Ireland.

From my reading of the report, there is no mention of PRTLI or HRB, nor any other mention of SFI, apart from the final bullet point above.

There is further commentary and analysis of the document on the RTE News website.

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Recent changes to Google Scholar

The Google Scholar blog announced some changes to their service, and in particular some enhancements to Google Scholar Citations.

Might be worth checking out if you’re into that kind of thing.

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Science Week 2011

indexA little bit late, but this week (November 13 – 20) is Science Week. Check out the Science Week website to see what activities are on in your area.

TOG, the Dublin hackerspace, is putting on a number of interesting talks that might be worth checking out.

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Thesis in 3

thesis-in-three-logoLast night, it was my privilege to be a judge for the Thesis in 3 competition, organised by the CLARITY CSET, in conjunction with their colleagues in the other eight CSETs.

The idea of the Thesis in 3 is very simple. It’s a rapid-fire competition, whereby PhD students in our CSETs have an opportunity to present their thesis work to a general audience. They get three minutes, and three slides to do so. Sounds simple, but condensing three or four years to highly technical and involved research into such a short time, and clarifying it to be understandable to the non-expert, is truly a difficult task. All 25 PhD candidates who entered the competition did so admirably.

On the night, we heard presentations on topics as diverse as the nanoscience of graphene, cancer biology, sensor networks, intestinal health, artificial intelligence, interference in wireless telecommunications, software engineering and speech processing. A great cross section of the work currently underway at the CSETs.

Despite the stiff competition, the judging panel of Dr. Keith O’Neill of Enterprise Ireland, Rosemary MacCabe of the Irish Times, Patrick Haughey of TodayFM and myself ultimately selected Eva Szekely of the Centre for Next Generation Localisation (CNGL) in UCD as the winner, for her talk entitled “Voices that Speak to You”. As part of her prize, Eva will get to present her talk at the upcoming SFI Science Summit next week, in front of an audience of the top scientists in the country.

Many congratulations to Eva, our two runners up, Arlene O’Neill of CRANN and Sean Fitzgerald of BDI, as well as all the other participants. A particular congratulations to Bridget Kelly of CLARITY, who is the mastermind behind the whole effort.

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