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This event wants to bring Irish research to you while you're having a pint

Pint of Science is in its second year where ti tries to bridge the gap between the general public and Irish researchers.

Image: Sandra/Flickr

OF THE THINGS you can do when you’re at the pub, a few things come to mind. Meeting friends, watching matches, but what about a science talk while you’re having a drink?

That’s the concept behind Pint of Science, which is beginning on Monday 18th May and runs until 20th May, is in its second year here and is including both Galway and Limerick as part of its expansion.

Originally the creation of two research scientists from Imperial College London, the concept brings researchers away from the lab and into a more familiar setting for the public to meet, and the format has been adopted in nine different countries.

One of the founders of the Irish version Seán Mac Fhearraigh explained that the approach helps removes the barriers usually associated with such events by placing it in a more comfortable environment.

“We’re trying to remove the intimidation that you would find in a lecture theater,” explains Mac Fhearraigh. “The public have an appetite to learn about science and medical and technology and we thought what better place to have it than a pub.”

The four main areas covered include tech, science, the body and the mind with the vast majority of talks and panels featuring Ph.D. students, researchers and doctors. A small number would come from startups, but the main focus is bringing Irish researchers, whose work is done behind the scenes, to the forefront. And the interest is there according to Mac Fhearraigh.

What we learnt was the appetite for science is incredible. What we learnt was scientists, no matter how complex the research they have, the general public['s understanding] has of these topics is incredible. You can’t underestimate the intelligence of the Irish nation.

That appetite has been apparent with how fast tickets have been snapped up. It’s a free event so it’s easier to decide whether to go or not, but in Dublin, 80% of the tickets were snapped up within 24 hours. Granted, there are 1,700 tickets overall, but the rate in which they were taken does highlight the interest.

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mercantile1 One of the talks at last year's Pint of Science. Source: Sandra/Flickr

Keeping the talks accessible and interesting is always a challenge, this year covers topics like the science of addiction, fighting cancer with physics and the mathematics of brewing coffee, but the lessons learnt from the first Pint of Science last year, it was the setting encouraged people to engage and ask follow-up questions, something this year’s talks try to facilitate.

On some nights, you would see at least a half an hour of questions asked and we really tried to expand that out this year and give more engagement.

Having started in Dublin, the event has expanded to Galway and Limerick. The team of 33 people, mostly comprised of those from academic backgrounds, are all volunteers and what places they expand to is dependent on interest.

“What we do is we’re a volunteer-based structure. When people reach out to us to establish [events in the] cities, we try to set up groups there,” says Mac Fhearraigh.

Galway has a huge stem cell biotechnology background, they’ve a new biosciences building on the NUI Galway campus that houses some of the best researchers there and we knew there is a wealth of great scientific researchers there.. Limerick has engineering, technology, maths, Lero… This is showcasing the best of Ireland, this isn’t a Dublin centric event, it’s a pan-Ireland event.

That and the decision to host events for free, keeping it as open as possible, was vital since the aim is to show off the best of Irish research, but there’s another element to it as well.

The main thing is showcasing the best of Irish research, but it’s also about supporting women in science. If you look at the team, it’s about 80% of women [involved]. It’s a male-driven business in academia, in general, whereas we show that women have a huge part to play.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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