Dublin City of Science 2012 announced

Hear ye! Hear ye! Dublin, the capital city of a country famed for producing such scientific giants as Robert Boyle, John Tyndall, Ernst Walton and Jocelyn Bell Burnell has hereby reclaimed its rightful place at the summit of European scientific endeavour by officially inaugurating itself as the City of Science 2012.

Launched on January 26th last at Dublin’s Convention Centre by Jobs Minister Richare Bruton and Dara O’Brien (pictured below) the Dublin City of Science promises to be a milestone in affirming Ireland, not only as a global hub of ideas and expertise, but also as a country with the chutzpah required to lead from the front.

With any luck we’ll put it to good effect and pull off groundbreaking discoveries that the world requires both today and in the future.

Signifying the importance of the event was the attendance of The People’s Republic of China’s ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Luo Linquan together with his Science and Technology secretary Yang Zjihun.

Both were enthusiastic in their attendance and effervescent in expounding the potential for collaboration between the two countries.

Dublin goalkeeper and science teacher Stephen Cluxton together with PhD student and television presenter Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin were also present as science ambassadors for the celebrations.

Throughout 2012, over 160 events are planned, all with the express aim of fostering environments which lend themselves equally to both the curious amateurs and the devoted experts, and hopefully also, to plenty of liberal conversation between the two.

A good example is the Dublin Maker Faire which will serve as a showcase for home spun innovations, whether they be homemade experimental projects or fully patented, ready-to-market inventions.

An ‘open call’ for participants opens in February which gives anybody with ideas to share, the opportunity to get involved.

Central to the year-long City of Science celebrations is Dublin’s hosting of the ultra-prestigious European Science Open Forum (ESOF). This biannual event, previously held in Munich, Barcelona and Torino comes to Dublin after a competitive bidding process in which the city pledged to showcase not only the country’s scientific prowess but also its rich heritage in the arts.

How the two combine will be a pervasive theme throughout both the forum and the year’s activites.

The ESOF itself will create an explosive mix of over 5,000 elite and multidisciplinary scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, communicators and policy makers and is frankly staggering in both scale and ambition.

Four Nobel Laureates will be attending: Peter Doherty (1996), Jules Hoffmann (2011) James Watson (1962) and James Heckman (2000). Doherty and Hoffmann were awarded the prize for discoveries concerning how immune cells recognise distinct markers on viruses and bacteria respectively (particularly relevant giving Trinity’s and Ireland’s increasingly prominent standing on Immunology’s world stage).

Watson, as part of the famous ‘Watson and Crick’ duo was the first to discover the ‘double helix’ structure of DNA. Heckmen was awarded the Nobel prize for his work on microeconomics. Interested yet?

Others to look out for include the Director General of CERN, Rolf-Dieter Heuer and Craig Ventner, probably the world’s most influential and well-known molecular biologist.

Heuer will hopefully present a more definitive answer regarding the Large Hadron Collider’s search for the existence of the Higgs boson a.k.a. ‘The God Particle’. This much heralded search is expected to be completed within the coming months meaning a major announcement is a definite possibility.

Ventner on the other hand, as the man responsible for producing the first draft of the human genome not to mention the successful engineering of the first life form controlled entirely by man-made DNA, will hopefully bring events back to a more ‘grounded’ but equally enrapturing state.

A place should also be reserved in advance for the European Space Agency’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain whose work oversees the Planck and Herschel telescopes, the Galelio Satellite Navigation System (an upgraded version of America’s GPS) and Europe’s contributions to the International Space Station.

Add to all this, contributions from Mary Robsinon and Bob Geldof on human rights, the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Maire Geoghegan Quinn as well as influential communicators such as the editors of the journals Science and Nature and also the science and technology editors from the BBC and the Financial Times.

Robin Ince, the co-host of BBC Radio Four’s acclaimed Science comedy series “The Infinite Monkey Cage” will also be in attendance. Fans of the show may be pleased to hear that when asked by Trinity News whether The Infinite Monkey Cage were considering attending Dublin City of Science, Dara O’Briain, who has appeared on the show previously said “it was a great idea” and “worth keeping in mind”.

At a time when enthusiasm for science is riding high but competition for funding capital has become increasingly fierce, Dublin City of Science 2012, combined with the Euroscience Open Forum is a promising reminder to ourselves and both potential and established colleagues abroad that Ireland is competing and winning on the scientific stage.

Future students in particular should take note.