Celsius Research Cluster


Celsius is a DCU research cluster studying Cultural, Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Science. It is an interdisciplinary group bringing together researchers from a range of academic and professional backgrounds who analyse from various perspectives issues and implications of current developments in science, technology, environment and medicine.

Celsius builds on the decade of experience in science communication teaching and research in DCU School of Communications, which has Ireland's only Masters in science communication, and where three PhD research projects on science communication have been completed in recent years.

Members of Celsius include researchers who have participated, or currently participate, in projects on public issues in emerging technologies such as GM foods, genetic screening and nanotechnology, celebrity scientists, communication training for research scientists, discourses of the knowledge economy, evaluation of science outreach initiatives, ethics of new diagnostics, and on many other topics. Celsius provides a forum for development and conduct of research projects, and is available to undertake commissioned research, consultancy and training for scientists, civil society groups and science teachers engaging with science issues in public and educational arenas.

 Members of the Research Group

Pat Brereton

Dr. Pat Brereton is formerly Associate Dean for Research of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Pat’s research expertise is in film studies and new media literacies. He is particularly interested in media representations of ecology, science, war, religion, new media audiences, media literacy, and national identities.

Pat is interested in supervising masters and PhD theses on: smart cinema, Irish film, ecology in the media, and new media literacies.

Padraig Murphy

Dr. Padraig Murphy is an expert in the area of Science Communication and has managed a number of collaborative, externally funded projects in this field. His research focuses on risk communication, media representations of science and technology and media audiences’ understanding of scientific discourses. He is Research Cluster Coordinator of the Celsius research group.

Padraig is interested in supervising masters and PhD theses on: Science communication; public participation in, and representations of, science and technology; pedagogy and identities; emerging technologies, and new media in education.

Dr. Jane Suiter

Dr. Jane Suiter is a lecturer in the School of Communications and acting director of the Centre for 21st Century Media at DCU. She has led several projects in media monitoring, most recently for the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland focussing on gender. She is an expert in engagement and participation and is Deputy Research Director of the Irish Constitutional Convention. Jane is also a former journalist having been Economics Editor at The Irish Times.

Brian Trench

Brian Trench is a researcher, evaluator and trainer in science communication and a former senior lecturer (retired 2010) in the School of Communications, Dublin City University (DCU). He is also a former Head of School (2002-2007). He was the founding co-ordinator of the Masters in Science Communication and of the Celsius group at DCU. He is co-editor with Massimiano Bucchi of Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology (Routledge 2008 and 2014) and of Critical Concepts in Sociology: Public Communication of Science (Routledge, 2015).

Caitríona Mordan

Caitríona Mordan currently holds responsibility for the management and delivery for current EU-funded projects NUCLEUS (New Understanding for Communication, Learning and Engagement in Universities and Scientific Institutions) and the OSOS (Open schools for Open Societies) as well as project management of the DCU Celsius Research Cluster. She is a member of the DCU Social Innovation Network and represents DCU on the National CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Forum.
Caitríona has nine years’ experience in managing STEM public engagement initiatives and stakeholder management. She has previously represented Ireland as a Science Ambassador and has led and served on a number of national advisory groups, including the Project Maths Implementation Group, The Smart Futures Advisory Group (a national industry-education-academia collaborative group). In addition to a M.Sc. in Science Communication she holds a BBS in Business & Human Resource Management.

Brenda McNally is interested in communication strategies and media practices associated with environmental risks and sustainability. Her PhD research investigates the use and influence of mass media(ted) communication about adaptation to environmental change in Ireland. The study analyses 'legacy' and digital media communication and is concerned with how key social actors’ public engagement initiatives shape (potential) citizen participation in the transition to a low carbon future. Brenda is a Daniel O'Hare Scholar and is an experienced communications professional having worked as a freelance journalist and in academic publishing.

Stephen Hughes is an Environmental Protection Agency PhD scholar. His research topic: "Communicating Responsible Research and Innovation - steps towards future environmental science and public engagement" examines critically the historical and sociological forces of science communication since the 'Irish turn to science' with particular reference to green social actors' and Government's role.

Diana Smith is currently completing a PhD on programme evaluation of science outreach and informal learning. The research developed a novel framework for project evaluation using a developmental evaluation approach. She has been involved in project evaluation of community engagement and public participation and worked for PERARES (Public Engagement with Research and Research Engagement with Society). Her research interests are informal learning, community engagement and issues in programme evaluation.

Dr Fiachra O’Brolcháin is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Ethics.  His research focuses on the ethics of novel technologies.  He is the lead ethical researcher on Clarity’s FP7 REVERIE project.  His research in this area focuses on artificial avatars, social networks, and virtual realities.  Other research interests are the ethics of human enhancement, ethical issues associated with brain-computer interfaces, and climate change and global justice.

Founding Celsius members are:

Brian Trench, lecturer in science communication, School of Communications.

Dr Pat Brereton, Head of School, School of Communications

Yvonne Cunningham, PhD researcher, School of Communications;

Dr. Declan Fahy, Lecturer in Science Communication, American University (PhD from DCU, Associate Member);

Diana Kaiser, PhD researcher, Biomedical Diagnostics Institute;

Dr. Eve Merton, (PhD from DCU, Associate Member);

Dr Anne Morrissey, chemical engineer, Oscail, coordinator Sustainable DCU;

Dr Pádraig Murphy, lecturer in science communication, School of Communications

Emma O'Brien, Education and Outreach manager, Biomedical Diagnostics Institute;

Prof Richard O'Kennedy, School of Biotechnology, VP of Teaching and Learning;

Dr Donal O Mathuna, senior lecturer in healthcare ethics, School of Nursing;

Dr Fiona Regan, lecturer in environmental science, School of Chemical Sciences;

Prof Helena Sheehan, lecturer in philosophy and history of science, School of Communications.

Previous Science//Society Symposiums

Science//Society 2017 

To mark the publication of a collection of essays and analyses of science communication in Ireland -- Little Country, Big Talk, edited by Brian Trench, Padraig Murphy and Declan Fahy - Celsius hosted a two-part event on Wednesday, 19 April, 2017 at DCU.

From 4pm, a seminar was held with practitioners, policy-makers and researchers in science communication that considered strengths and weaknesses in the field.

From 6pm, a launch and celebration of the book took place on one of the first such country studies anywhere of science communication's development in all its aspects. The book was officially launched by Prof. Brian MacCraith, President of DCU.

"Little Country, Big Talk"

Information about this publication [PDF]

Science//Society 2016 

Learning and Communicating Science for Global Challenges

Venue: CG86 Henry Grattan Building, DCU
Time: ​May 5th 2016​, 10am - 4pm​

9.30 Coffee & Welcome

10.00 – 11.00 Opening followed by
SESSION 1: Connecting science communication and science education

Prof Michael Reiss, Professor of Science Education at University College London Institute of Education, University College London 'Science communication and science education: Identity, conflict or complementarity?'
Prof Danny O’Hare, Champion of Exploration Station the new science learning centre, and Founding President of DCU - 'A National Science Learning Centre'
Chair/respondent: Brian Trench

11.00 -1.00
SESSION 2: Learning anew about science learning - new developments and mechanisms

Aobhinn Ni Shuilleabhain, UCD – Transformative Informal Learning
Jane Chadwick, Science Gallery Dublin, TCD – Connecting Young People to World Challenges
Maarten Van Der Saanden, Delft University – Innovation and Global Science Communication
Eilish McLaughlin and Odilla Finlayson, DCU – Teaching, Learning and Assessing Science – A Global Challenge
Chair: Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain

LUNCH (not provided)

2.00 -3.45
SESSION 3 - ROUNDTABLE: What kind of learning happens through 'education and outreach'?

Sheila Gilheany, Institute of Physics
Shaun O’Boyle, Science Gallery Dublin
Caitriona Mordan, Independent Science Communication Consultant
Alexandra Boyd, Public Engagement & Outreach, UCD
Brian Trench, President PCST: The Network of science Communication
Chair: Padraig Murphy

COFFEE followed by


'Please RSVP padraig.murphy@dcu.ie

Science//Society 2015

Communicating Climate Change and Sustainability

Celsius Science//Society seminar,

DCU in conjunction with QUB,

March 5th 2015

DCU Innovation Campus, Glasnevin 

*NB This event is not being held at the main DCU Campus. Please click for the map to the DCU Innovation Campus 


In the two decades since climate change first came to prominence as an issue of public, policy and academic concern, media interest has shifted focus from apocalyptic stories of environmental doom and images of stranded polar bears, to hotly-contested debates about climate science and the so-called ‘Climate Wars’ which cast doubt on scientific knowledge and climate scientists.

Now, with successive IPCC reports highlighting the scientific certainty about anthropogenic climate change and as we approach the deadline for international agreement on carbon emissions at Paris in December 2015, there is greater attention on the wider socio-cultural and political implications of this global challenge. Increasingly, public discussion about climate change involves ideas about climate resilience, climate adaptation or clean energy as well as new technologies and ways of living to assist the transition to future environmental sustainability.

The next phase of understanding the climate change problem raises novel challenges for science, society and communicators. It will require transformations in public policy, practices and expectations of the good life and will involve new ways of thinking about governance, everyday lifestyles, business and innovation. This seminar – a collaboration between Celsius (DCU) and Queens University Belfast (QUB) – explores the possible academic and practitioner approaches to communicating climate change and sustainability. It investigates the potential openings and closures for public engagement with environmental sustainability and climate change and it asks how can communications research from across disciplines shed light on the opportunities and challenges for practitioners and policy-makers. In doing so, it hopes to encourage academic and practitioner conversation across research approaches from both social and physical sciences.

The panel discussions will focus on four themes underpinning the multi-disciplinary ethos of the seminar:

Panel 1: A Weather Eye on Climate Change: Meteorologists Taking the Long View
Panel 2: Communicating Climate Change and Sustainability from the Social Sciences & Humanities
Panel 3: Visualising Climate Change
Panel 4: Communicating Climate Change and Sustainability to Policy

Round Table:

The concluding session, chaired by Professor John Barry, will draw the key themes of the seminar together, with a discussion on Policy, Media, Uncertainty and Complexity

Invited Speakers include:

Professor Ray Bates: Meteorologist

Gerald Fleming: RTE’s longest-serving weather broadcaster
Dr Saffron O’Neill: Social scientist, researching social dimensions of climate change
Dr Cara Augustenborg: Al Gore's Climate Leadership Corps
Dr Julie Doyle: Social scientist, Author, Mediating Climate Change
Professor Barry McMullin: An Taisce; Executive Dean Faculty of Engineering & Computing, DCU

Programme Schedule

Research seminar Panel 1: MORNING 

9.15        A Weather Eye on Climate Change: Meteorologists Taking the Long View
Anthropogenic climate change: planetary emergency or long-term threat?
Professor Ray Bates, Meteorology and Climate Centre, University College Dublin

Communicating Climate Change & Sustainability from Meteorology & Weather Forecasting
Gerald Fleming, Weather Broadcaster, RTE
Chair/respondent: Brian Trench, President, Public Communication of Science and Technology

Short Coffee/Tea Break 10.55-11.15

Research seminar Panel 2: MORNING

11:15     Communicating Climate Change and Sustainability from the Social Sciences & Humanities

Framing the IPCC: Media coverage and framing of the Fifth Assessment Report
Dr Saffron O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Exeter

Media & Carbon Literacy:  Mapping Irish Media Coverage of Low Carbon Transition
B McNally, PhD Candidate, School of Communications, DCU

Irish Media Coverage of Climate Change: EPA-funded project
Dr Padraig Murphy, Programme Chair, MSc in Science Communication, DCU

Communicating Climate Change: Educational Challenges & Challenges for Education
T Hume, PhD Candidate, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, QUB

‘Whatever You Say, Say Climate Change: Energy scarcity, climate change and the systematic distortion of communication’
W Foord, PhD Candidate, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, QUB
Chair/respondent: Dr Padraig Murphy, Coordinator, Celsius Research Group

Lunch: 1-2pm

 Research seminar Panel 3: AFTERNOON

2:00        Communicating Climate Change and Sustainability to Policy

Climate Change Strategy + Human Rights = Climate Justice? Questioning The Mary Robinson Formula
Ben Christman, PhD Candidate, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast

Local Energy transitions: Lessons from The Gambia
Anne Schiffer, PhD Candidate, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, QUB

Climate Reality: Communicating climate change to the next generation
Dr Cara Augustenborg, Lecturer Climate Change and Environment, University College Dublin
Chair/respondent: Dr Ian Hughes, Innovation Policy Specialist

Research seminar Panel 4: AFTERNOON

3:15        Visualising Climate Change and Sustainability
Imag(in)ing climate: creative conversations and collaborative communications
Dr Julie Doyle, Reader in Media Studies, University of Brighton Faculty of Arts

Environmental Ethics and Film
Dr Pat Brereton, Head of School, School of Communications, DCU
Chair/respondent: Dr Padraig Murphy, Coordinator, Celsius Research Group

Short Coffee/Tea Break 4.15-4.30

Evening Roundtable

4.30        Policy, media, uncertainty and complexity
David Dodd, Research Unit, Environmental Protection Agency
Dr. Diarmuid Torney, Lecturer, School of Law & Government, DCU
Dr Cara Augustenborg, Lecturer Climate Change and Environment, University College Dublin
Dr Padraig Murphy, Celsius
Professor Barry McMullin, Chair of the An Taisce  Climate Change Committee            
Chair/respondent: Chair: John Gormley, Former Irish Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Science//Society 2014

Celsius 2014

Challenges of open science

Eighth science//society symposium

30-31 January 2014

Keynote talk: Alma Swan, Convenor of Enabling Open Scholarship, an international network of universities committed to open scholarship; Director of Advocacy, SPARC Europe (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an alliance of academic libraries promoting more open scholarly communication on “Who’s afraid of open access?”

Alma Swan, opened the symposium with her keynote address ‘Who’s afraid of open access?’ She introduced the open access concept, noting that open access to literature and research outputs is crucial to open science. To put open access in context, Swan gave an overview of its history, beginning with the 1666 Proceedings of the Royal Society, then moving on to 1950s CERN, and bringing it up to today’s explosion of journals, research and publishing and the use of online repositories such as RIAN.ie Swan outlined some of the issues which were slowing the pace of open access publishing, including lack of awareness among the research community, the lack of recognition of open access publishing in academic rewards systems and indeed the general slowness of academics to use the web for communication.

Download the slides

Patricia Clarke, Senior Policy Analyst, Health Research Board; Co-chair, National Steering Committee on Open Access on “Open Access publishing: Ireland and abroad”

Patricia Clarke’s presentation followed, she described the work of Science Europe, a policy body, including their survey about open access. Clarke described some models of open access, and Ireland’s policy on same.

Clarke noted that every university in Ireland has a repository, and the next aim is to widen this out to other institutions which do research, such as hospitals, charities etc. Ireland is on a par with Denmark or Portugal regarding political commitment to open access, and that this commitment has driven change in local organisations, for example the HSE and the Department of Food, Agriculture and the Marine have published policies on open access.

Download the slides

Keynote talk: Rick Holliman, Champion for Public Engagement with Research, Open University, UK: on “Towards an open research university—reflections on a programme of institutional change”

Rick Holliman spoke about his work as the Open University’s Champion for Public Engagement with Research. The idea of public engagement with research is to embed ‘openness’ into research generally, Holliman emphasised this by quoting one of his interviewees: “I don't want to be a private intellectual, I want to be public”. This is a disruptive idea and not supported by everyone. Open (public) scholarship makes projects digitally visible and therefore open to criticism and comment. Holliman described how some research—about love, learning disabilities and religion in London—had been opened up.

Holliman went on to describe the work of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, which encourages scientists to self-assess where they are with regards to public engagement, and where they’d like to be. Holliman noted that leadership from above is required in order to make open research mainstream.

Download the slides

Alessandro Delfanti, Research fellow, McGill University, Montreal, Canada; Author, Biohackers—the politics of open science (Pluto Press 2013) on: “High energy papers, open access in perspective.”

Alessandro Delfanti gave an account of his work researching the Journal of High Energy Physics (JoHEP), an online and open access academic journal established by a small group of Italian scientists in the mid-nineties. JoHEP attracted papers from famous physicists and established itself as a journal. Almost a quarter of papers published came from the USA.

Delfanti described the genealogy of open access of high energy physics, from CERN policies to the SCOAP3‘s (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics) (subsidised) gold model. In his interviews with physicists, he found that they did not read journals, as they used the archive instead. Delfanti is exploring scientific communities’ resistance to change, as well as the re-mediation of the journal format and the role of openness in changing science’s institutions.

Download the slides

David Slawson, newly appointed Director of OPAL (Open Air Laboratories), former Head of Plant Health Public Engagement, Food and Environment Research Agency, UK on “Open laboratories and citizen science” Dr David Slawson, the incoming director of OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) opened the second day of the symposium. He described the work of OPAL, and the need for local networks of experts and citizen scientists to carry out projects about biodiversity and climate. OPAL means the research is moving away from universities towards organisations closer to the ground, this means that the net can be spread wider and much more data gathered, Slawson also noted that citizen science surveys need to be carefully designed.

Slawson was joined by a panel of open science / citizen science practitioners including Karin Dubsky of Coastwatch, David McKeown of Science Hack Day, Cathal Garvey of Indie Biotech, and Lynn Scarff of the Science Gallery.

Science//Society 2013

Celsius 2013

Connecting Science and Policy

Seventh science//society symposium 

January 24-25, 2013

With Ireland's presidency of the EU in early 2013, science policy has come under almost unprecedented scrutiny. Ireland hosted the Euroscience Open Forum in 2012, drawing in the world's best across many scientific and technological disciplines, and with the hope of leaving a legacy. Also in 2012, a steering group and Forfás set out fourteen priority areas for science in Ireland. As Science Foundation Ireland took on the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor's Office, there have been tensions and anxieties among researchers over the direction of applied and basic research in Ireland. All of this occurs within the context of limited budgets and institutional changes within state bodies in these times of austerity. There are however, solutions to these science policy issues that require collaboration between science, technology and innovation (STI) policy-makers, higher education institutes, and the public. As of early 2013, the Irish Government is developing a science strategy to replace the 2006 Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, lead by Minister of State for Research Seán Sherlock. In this context, the Celsius research group at DCU hosted a symposium in the Helix at DCU on 24-25th January 2013. The keynote lecture was by Prof Ben Martin, of the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. This was the seventh annual science//society symposium hosted by the Celsius group at DCU.

Keynote talk: Professor Ben Martin, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, on "What can policy-makers learn from science policy studies?"

In this keynote talk, Professor Martin gave a thorough overview of the field of science policy and innovation studies and its development over the past fifty years. He detailed no less than twenty developments in science policy over this period, ranging from the evolution of a dynamic model of innovation from a static one, to the shift from Mode 1 to Mode 2 science, before describing the impacts of these developments on technology and innovation management and STI policy. Martin concluded with some thought provoking questions about the "evidence for evidence-based policy and its benefits to society.

Click here to view slide

Dr Niels Mejlgaard, Centre for Research Policy Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark: Applying science in policy: comparisons across Europe

Dr Niels Mejlgaard presented results from the EU-funded Monitoring Policy and Research Activities on Science in Society in Europe (MASIS) project. The output of this project was a database about science in society issues across 37 EU and associated countries. Mejlgaard used this to group countries in terms of their use of science in policy-making, models of public involvement in science and technology decision-making and science communication culture. Mejlgaard concluded by noting that the heterogeneity of cultures poses a challenge to the promotion of shared European research policies, development of an ERA, and a common model of science in society.

Click here to view slides

Prof Kirk Junker, University of Cologne, Germany: EU-US comparison of environmental science policy implementation through law

Professor Junker began his presentation with an explanation of the comparativist method and a rationale for his use of it, before moving on to compare common law and civil law systems with regard to environmental law (and policy). He gave an engaging explanation of the two systems and concluded by focusing on the Irish and UK situations, which are caught between the two systems-on the one hand having a common law (i.e. legislation by litigation) tradition and on the other hand a Trojan horse from Brussels bringing in science policy through rationalism.

Click here to view slides

Dr Séamus Ó Tuama. Department of Government, University College Cork: Expert-lay relations in the policy process

Dr Séamus Ó Tuama presented a case for expert-lay relations in the policy process, emphasising what he termed "an old-fashioned idea" of the common good. He argued that lay people should be more involved in important decisions, noting from Neil Mejlgaard's presentation that this is not happening in Ireland. Ó Tuama went on to reference several scholars (Jasanoff, Aronowitz, Frankenfeld, Bohman) to justify his position : for real lay engagement with decision-making about science to occur, three key requirements must be met: initiative, participation and bindedness—a term he coined himself, which means that decisions that publics make need to be binding.

Click here to view slide

Professor Fredric Adam, University College Cork: European practices in technology assessment

Professor Adam spoke about Parliamentary Assessment Technology (PTA) as a means to connect politics, science and society in making well-informed unbiased decisions. He grouped countries in terms of whether they carried out PTA or not and in terms of the different models of PTA used. Adam concluded by noting that Ireland focuses on science and economy while largely ignoring the relationship between science and society, and by calling for Ireland to address an impoverished engagement model through increasing the capacity of policy-makers, industrialists, scientists and citizens to engage on questions of science.

Click here to view slides

Brenda McNally, PhD candidate, Dublin City University: Environmental sustainability and the social script.

Brenda McNally presented on her PhD research on how public discourses about environmental sustainability are shaping how people see their roles in transitioning to a low carbon future. She outlined her plans to carry out a qualitative analysis of discourses in Irish broadsheet newspapers and to triangulate this with secondary research on public perceptions on climate. This work will add Irish data to a growing international field of research.

Click here to view slides

Laura Sexton, PhD candidate, University College Cork: Ireland's knowledge economy policies.

Laura Sexton's talk was about her research into the beliefs and drivers of Ireland's knowledge economy. As part of her on-going PhD research, she has interviewed public servants, politicians, as well as professionals from the corporate sector, education, and media. She has found that politicians support the knowledge economy idea, though they see it as a business rather than as an education policy; however the  main drivers for the policy are public servants (influenced by politicians).

Click here to view slides

Mary O'Regan, PhD candidate, Tyndall Institute, University College Cork: Securing support for large-scale research facilities

Mary O'Regan presented on her PhD research about whether Ireland should present as a possible location for Big Science. She outlined the importance of champions for Big Science and explored some strategies that Ireland could use to engage in the area. She went on to give some ideas of possible projects that Ireland could engage in such as a global research centre in marine science.

Click here to view slides

Diana Smith, PhD candidate, Dublin City University: Science communication as 'outreach'

Diana Smith looked at definitions and instances of science outreach in Ireland as it is represented on institute websites. She presented an investigation of who is involved, the purpose of involvement, and its relation to other forms of outreach. Her research problematizes the way science is represented, what audiences are addressed, and the 'outsourcing' of science outreach to science communication professionals. She concluded by suggesting that these issues be addressed by running longer and more authentic programmes.

Click here to view slides

Chairs: Dr. Norah Campbell and Dr. Joanne Rourke, Trinity College 
Dublin, and Brian Trench, DCU

Science//Society 2011

Celsius 2011

Interdisciplinary Experiences – Collaborations and Collisions

Sixth annual Celsius Symposium on Science and Society, The Helix Gallery, Dublin City University, Friday 10 June 2011

9.00 – 11.00 Interdisciplinarity and Pedagogy

Lynn Scarff (TCD Science Gallery): The Future of Water – the Idea Translation Lab

James Lovatt (DCU School of Education Studies): Developing a module in Interdisciplinary Science

Richard O’Kennedy (DCU Vice-President for Learning Innovation): Science in the courtroom – forensics, role-play and undergraduate education

Brian Trench (DCU School of Communications): Science communication – the evolution of a new academic subject

Chair: Marguerite Barry, DCU

11.00 – 11.30 Coffee break

11.30 – 1.00 Synergies between disciplines

Pat Brereton (DCU School of Communications, Associate Dean of Research for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) and Stephen Daniels (DCU School of Electronic Engineering): New research approaches for sustainability

Enrico Marsili (DCU School of Biotechnology) and Padraig Murphy (DCU School of Communications): A dialogical life cycle approach for nanotechnology?

Siobhan O’Sullivan (former scientific director, Irish Council for Bioethics, and member, European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies): Research ethics and bioethics – where disciplines meet

Chair: Juliana Adelman, TCD

1.00 – 2.00 Lunch

2.00 – 3.15 Keynote address

Brian Wynne (Lancaster University): The roles of publics and science in the governance of food biotechnology

Chair: Padraig Murphy

3.15 – 4.00 Concluding session

Chair: Brian Trench

4.00 Reception

Summary report of the sixth annual Celsius science-in-society symposium held in Dublin City University on 10th June 2011

The keynote speaker at this year’s symposium was Brian Wynne, professor of science studies at the University of Lancaster, author of numerous papers and books on social issues in science and technology, and participant in many European and British research projects and policy advisory groups. Prof Wynne addressed governance of food biotechnology, mainly from the perspectives of global food production, biodiversity and the lay knowledge of local farmers. He tracked developments in British and European policy in this arena, noting that the publicly stated position of the European Commission on environmental risk associated with genetically modified crops was at odds with the Commission’s unpublished submissions to the World Trade Organisation on the same topic.

In an interesting aside, Prof Wynne remarked that much commentary on the critique of the deficit model in science communication, of which he was the first (and is still the most frequently cited) voice, had misrepresented his view as a critique of the notion that publics have deficits of knowledge. Earlier, Lynn Scarff of the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin described a university-level module open to students of all disciplines in which they work in teams to develop  ideas for possible products and services, this year addressing issues in access to and quality of water.

James Lovatt (School of Education Studies, DCU) reported the experiences of colleagues in Chemical Sciences and Physical Sciences in delivering an interdisciplinary science module to first-year students. Using a scenario involving social and ethical issues students learned skills of argument and presentation but also – as they acknowledged – learned significant science content also.

Prof Richard O’Kennedy, DCU’s Vice-President for Learning Innovation, presented his experience of teaching a final-year course in biotechnology using forensic problems to engage the students and to teach them about presenting scientific evidence in legal and social contexts.

Stephen Daniels (Energy Design Lab, DCU) and Pat Brereton (school of Communications, DCU) recounted their developing collaboration around public perceptions and behaviour on energy issues that is leading to a “true cross-disciplinary research agenda”. A new PhD studentship will be located across the two disciplinary areas.

The focus of the collaboration between Enrico Marsili (School of Biotechnology, DCU) and Padraig Murphy (School of Communications, DCU) is on nanotechnology as a fast-growing field that invites interdisciplinary and dialogical approaches to its social assessment. These two researchers, from different disciplines, described new ways of approaching local/global interactions with various local community representatives, connecting wider ‘”macro” themes and debates of sustainability to ‘micro’ green tech innovation processes.  There were “language” issues, they reported, due to the various fields of expertise in public engagement workshops.

Brian Trench (School of Communications, DCU) offered some reflections on different modes and degrees of interdisciplinarity and used the example of science communication’s growth worldwide to show risks and benefits associated with interdisciplinary experiences. Students’ common observation of feeling “more rounded” through exposure to various disciplinary perspectives represented the intrinsic value of interdisciplinarity, he said.

The Celsius group wishes to acknowledge the support of the Office of Vice President of Researchand the Office of Vice President of Learning Innovation for the hosting of this event.

Science//Society 2010

Celsius 2010

Celsius held a workshop on the theme, Sustainability - where science and society meet, at DCU on 29th January 2010. Contributors to the workshop looked at sustainability from environmental, sociological, scientific, philosophical and ethical perspectives. This was the fifth event in a series of annual seminars and colloquia on science in society at DCU.

The workshop aimed to explore understandings of a concept that is increasingly used as a keyword of public policy and institutional strategy. In particular, it looked at the social sustainability as a complement to the more usual notion of sustainability as minimising harm to the environment and minimising future hazards or risks.

A public panel discussion that was part of the day's programme focused on climate change and renewable energy. Prof John Sweeney, of NUI-Maynooth and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argued that climate change deniers and sceptics were winning the communications battle and scientists in the field needed to improve their public debating skills. Dr Stephen Daniels, of the National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology at DCU, reviewed some of the scientific and technical challenges of developing renewable energy resources on a much larger scale. Prof Owen Lewis, chief executive of Sustainable Energy Ireland, emphasised what could be achieved, including mitigating climate change, by greater energy efficiency.

Earlier, Dr John Barry, associate director of the Institute for a Sustainable World at Queens University Belfast, spelled out the challenges of sustainability to academia, emphasising the need to go beyond the usual disciplinary boundaries. Dr Dónal O Mathúna, a healthcare ethicist in the School of Nursing, DCU, examined various applications and understandings of the precautionary principle.

Dr Shane Colgan of the Environmental Protection Agency outlined the scope and purpose of the agency's research programme. Dr Fiachra O Brolcháin, who lectures in philosophy of science in the School of Communications, DCU, set out a 'capabilities approach' to GM crops under which greater social benefits would accrue from their use through reform of the intellectual property regime.

Ciara Aucoin, of VOICE of Irish Concern for the Environment, described the role of NGOs in mediating science to society. Dr Hilary Tovey, of Trinity College Dublin, suggested fundamental questions about ownership and use of natural resources may underlie resistance to wind farms.

Dr Shane Colgan of the Environmental Protection Agency outlined the scope and purpose of the agency's research programme. Dr Fiachra O Brolcháin, who lectures in philosophy of science in the School of Communications, DCU, set out a 'capabilities approach' to GM crops under which greater social benefits would accrue from their use through reform of the intellectual property regime.

Ciara Aucoin, of VOICE of Irish Concern for the Environment, described the role of NGOs in mediating science to society. Dr Hilary Tovey, of Trinity College Dublin, suggested fundamental questions about ownership and use of natural resources may underlie resistance to wind farms.

To close the day's programme, Dr Massimiano Bucchi from University of Trento, Italy, argued that consensus may not be achievable on new technologies in complex, pluralist societies and Dr Padraig Murphy, from the Celsius group, outlined some findings on public engagement with nanotechnology and the possibilities of including publics in technology assessment.

Science//Society 2009

Celsius 2009

A two-day symposium on cultural, political, ethical and other social interactions around new sciences and emerging technologies took place at Dublin City University on 22-23 January 2009. The symposium was hosted by the Celsius research group and was the fourth in a series of annual meetings at DCU on science-in-society issues.

Prof Alan Irwin, Copenhagen Business School, New sciences, new risks, new science governance

In his opening presentation, Alan Irwin drew attention to the emphasis in EU science policy on competition and innovation in the knowledge economy. These emphases, like that on risk, were reshaping the social role of experts, Irwin argued. Sketching the changing models of science governance, he said "the public" seemed to have a bigger role in the current models, but policy-makers had a limited view of the public, either focused on extremist views or on the media.

Prof Mark Brake, University of Glamorgan, Wales, Nuclear power, before it was new

In a session that offered two views on nuclear energy, Mark Brake went back to the early 20th century and to the writings of H G Wells in order to demonstrate how literature was a significant site for the negotiation of new sciences. Wells, he said, could be considered the inventor of the atom bomb, and certainly his literary speculations were known to the physicists who did devise the weapons used in 1945. Many other science fiction authors, through the 20th century, had explored the military applications of nuclear energy and the possible effects of the use of nuclear arms.

Prof Miles Turner, National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology, DCU, New Nuclear - the promise of fusion

Physicist Miles Turner described nuclear fusion as a "renewed science", but one that required internationally co-ordinated political decision-making for its potential to be realised. While energy production from nuclear fusion remained far from commercial at present, the scientific and technical issues were less than the political issues. The international ITER programme may cost �30 billion and take to 2030 to produce a reactor that produces ten times more energy that it consumes. A commercial prototype reactor may be ready by 2040.

Prof Dietram Scheufele, University of Wisconsin, USA, How publics make sense of nanotechnology

Dietram Scheufele also touched on political and commercial contexts in his presentation on public attitudes to nanotechnology. But his pre-recorded video talk focused on the relation between citizens' "religiosity" and their attitudes to nanotechnology and to its moral acceptability. His study matched the average ranking in selected countries of the importance of god in individuals' lives with the responses to surveys on nanotechnology.

View presentation online by saving and opening in a chosen movie player

Dr Padraig Murphy, School of Communications, DCU, Discourses and discourse sites of nanotechnology

Continuing on nanotechnology, Padraig Murphy presented an outline of the "discourse sites" he had identified as distinct arenas of public communication around this new science and its health and other social implications. He questioned whether the framing of nanotechnology could be shared across sites.

Dr Pat Brereton, School of Communications, DCU; and Dr Donal O Mathuna, School of Nursing, DCU, Cinema representations of nanotechnology

Biological applications of nanotechnology that raised ethical issues featured most prominently in a presentation on fiction films by Donal O Mathuna and Pat Brereton. Taking a small number of recent films as examples, they discussed how the films' narratives might be considered a negotiation of the possibilities of bio- and nanotechnology.

Dr Suzanne de Cheveigné , CNRS, France, What can surveys tell us about Europeans' attitudes to new sciences?

Public attitudes to these new sciences have been the subject of many national and international surveys, and Suzanne de Cheveigné asked how much could be learned from the long series of Eurobarometer surveys about Europeans' attitudes to these and other new sciences. The surveys assumed that all individuals have information, opinions and attitudes on the topics, although it is not clear, she claimed, that they do, or even that they should have. Other issues concerning these surveys included the form and content of some questions, inconsistent translations, and the questionable proposition that the various views in a country can be averaged to present a picture of that country.

Brian Trench, School of Communications, DCU, New sciences in a "new country" - the Irish paradox

Brian Trench, New sciences in a ‘new country’ (powerpoint presentation)

Brian Trench presented a case for seeing Ireland as a "new country", in which all science is more or less "new". Having discussed briefly Irish ambitions for S&T, he examined evidence from 15 national and international surveys for public engagement with this policy. Despite the turn to science, the Irish population shows itself, over 30 years of European surveys, as among the least attentive to or interested in S&T among EU member states, but also the most open to answering "don't know".

Prof Bert Gordijn, Ethics Institute, DCU, Ethical issues in tissue engineering

Bert Gordijn took the case of tissue engineering to illustrate how a model for prospective ethical analysis of new sciences might be developed, based on considerations of the value of the goals of the research, the contribution of continuing research to reaching those goals, and the avoidability or justifiability of any ethical problems. Gordijn noted that some of these ethical problems were large, such as those relating to the moral status of the embryo, but he suggested that interdisciplinary research groups could engage in ethical reasoning around them.

Dr Fiona Coyle, Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cardiff, Stem cells, spaces and the performance of the public

Drawing on work done in New Zealand and Britain, Fiona Coyle explored how publics have made sense of the "politicised" science of stem cell research. The studies presented sought to capture something of people's everyday talk on such an issued, and demonstrated the emotional ambivalence of many participants, but also the influence of specific and personal contexts on the positions taken.

The participation in the symposium of several international speakers was made possible by a conference grant from the DCU Office of the Vice-President for Research. A conference dinner was provided courtesy of the DCU Foresight Unit.