Inspire, engage, explore: What’s happening for Science Week 2021

From farming and food talks to TV specials to online live events, the future is here again

Cop26 and Covid-19 have highlighted the importance and power of science in tackling issues both local and global. And this year, as a result of the pandemic, Science Week 2021 is a mix of virtual and in-person events running up to November 14th that look to inspire, engage and explore new opportunities for science in our future.

Farming, food, walks and talks

For its Science Week programme, Teagasc is hosting a festival exploring aspects of farming and food. Already the Trails and Tales event at Castlemorris was a big success, according to science communications and outreach officer Catriona Boyle, and there will be a similar guided walk in Jenkinstown Woods in Kilkenny this weekend.

Or if you don’t fancy lacing up the walking boots, you can join broadcaster Jonathan McCrea live on Zoom during the week for discussions about horticulture with experts from the National Botanic Gardens, about the power of fruit and vegetables and about the science of dairy.

Having so many of the Festival of Farming and Food events online offers the opportunity for people all around Ireland to join in, notes Boyle, and she encourages teachers to broadcast events to their classes. More details are available here.


Science on the telly

RTÉ programmes will feature plenty of science too, including Science to the Rescue, an hour-long documentary presented by Trevor Vaugh about researchers developing their discoveries as they compete to win the Science Foundation Ireland Future Innovator Prize. The competition features two challenges: the AI for Societal Good challenge and the Zero Emissions challenge.

Future Island will feature plenty of science with presenters Liz Bonnin and Prof Luke O'Neill and a host of guests including physicist Prof Brian Cox, meteorologist Gerald Fleming and the women's fours rowing team – Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty – who recently won bronze for Ireland in the Olympics.

Science communicator and physicist Phil Smyth will be busy creating mayhem and controlled explosions on Future Island, and will round off the week on Friday with two quizzes, for primary and secondary school levels, to test your knowledge of science and win prizes along the way.

New audiences

If your head is already spinning trying to keep up with the schedule, then tune in to Science Live shows online at 5pm each day this week, which give pointers about Science Week events. Science communicator Dr Niamh Shaw is producing and broadcasting the shows online with transition year students from St Louis secondary school in Dundalk and Margaret Aylward Community College in Dublin.

The students get to sharpen their journalistic and video production skills, and Shaw is keen to find out what interests them about science along the way.

Shaw is involved in numerous other Science Week events too, including pop-up discussions in Dublin City centre about climate change and an initiative to use art and dance to make the topic feel more approachable.

"I want to work with audiences who may not think science is for them, to find out how they would like to be involved and heard," she says. "That is the big challenge for science communicators." See

Claire O'Connell

Claire O'Connell

Claire O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times who writes about health, science and innovation