Amidst Bailout, Ireland increases science budget

Published 08/12/2010 in Science Insider

The Irish government has increased its funding for research in 2011 by 12.5% despite being forced to make €6 billion in cuts following its recent bailout.

The budget, which passed in the Dáil yesterday by a margin of four votes, came following an €85 billion International Monetary Fund-E.U. rescue package announced last month.

Measures included increased taxes, specific targets for reducing the numbers employed by the state, reductions in social welfare payments, reductions in the minimum wage, and reductions in pension payments to former state employees.

But amid the belt-tightening, Ireland decided not only to protect its science and research budget but also to increase it by one-eighth. Conor Lenihan, the minister responsible for science, technology and innovation, and the brother of the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, said: “The budget for high-tech start-ups and focused commercial research is up for the first time in 3 years.”

That emphasis on “commercial research” has some scientists concerned that funding for basic science will suffer as Ireland’s research portfolio becomes even more focused and applied. They’re also worried about a policy change announced in March following a cabinet reshuffle. The move gave total control of the lucrative Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions run by the Higher Education Authority (HEA)—one of two main public bodies funding science in Ireland—to Minister Lenihan’s new department. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the other major funding body in Ireland, meanwhile has survived, and seen its budget increased slightly for 2011.

SFI has been associated with funding people, while HEA tends to fund infrastructure. Dónal Leech, former secretary of the now-defunct Irish Research Scientists’ Association said: “The cumulative effect of the past 2 years has been a cut of over 30% in the research budget of funders, mostly SFI.” Science Foundation Ireland is the main public body funding science in Ireland. Leech, director of the Biomolecular Electronics Research Laboratory, at the National University of Ireland, Galway, added: “Even if, as claimed, this budget increases research funding, this does not bring us back to 2008 levels.”

Dublin’s long-lost Viking rival located in Louth

The Vikings first began their raiding into Ireland in 795, before deciding to ‘overwinter’ here in two locations in 841, according to the Annals of Ulster, an account of medieval Ireland written in the 15th century.

One of the overwinter locations famously became Dúbh Linn, or Dublin, while the other Linn Duachaill, was lost in time. That is until now, as a team of delighted archaeologists, led by Dr Mark Clinton believe they have found the lost site.

To read this story published in ScienceNOW on 22nd September, 2010, click here

Dr Mark Clinton (on left) examining Viking defensive ditch

Ireland Keeps Light Shining on Science With New Spending

DUBLIN—In a surprise move, the Irish government (which is tottering on the brink of bankruptcy) announced today that it would inject €359 million into research. It’s the largest single investment in the country’s history and a vote of confidence by the government, which in December will need to impose a third straight year of drastic spending cuts, in the idea that more research will boost the economy.

There has been grumbling that not enough jobs have been created in the wake of Ireland’s huge investment in science over the past decade. Therefore, it is no surprise that the new funds to be made available under the government’s Programme for Reseach in Third-Level Institutions (PRTLI) will be administered under the watchful eye of politicians. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation has recently taken over the PRTLI fund from the Higher Education Authority, and the focus is on applied research projects. The awards extend over a 5-year period from 2011 to 2016 and will fund research groups and new buildings.

Today’s announcement closely follows news that the other major funding body here, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), will be funding 950 fewer Ph.D. and postdoc positions by the end of 2011 as a result of cuts in its budget. The fear among the Irish scientific community was that the huge gains made since PRTLI began in 1998, and SFI in 2000, would be lost. Now that the PRTLI funds are in place, the picture looks clearer and a lot brighter.

This article was published on Science Insider, on the 16th July 2010

Ireland cuts back on Ph.D. and Postdoc support

Ireland is to shed nearly 1000 Ph.D. and postdoctoral posts in 2010 and 2011 as a result of severe government budget cuts. This runs counter to the government’s stated policy of doubling the number of people who have Ph.D.s. Cuts in funding to Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the public body responsible for investment in scientific and engineering research, has forced it to reduce the numbers of doctoral and postdoc researchers it supports by 950 by the end of next year.

To read the full article in Science Insider click here

Disquiet follows Irish science cut and policy shift

Ireland’s funding allocation for science, technology, and innovation (STI) is to be cut by 4.4% in 2010.

And in a major change of policy, a single stream of funding—under the control of the government department responsible for job creation—is to replace the existing arrangement for which a wide range of bodies provide research funding.

To view the full story in Science Insider click here

Science’s Celtic Tiger tries to keep roaring

Once a place that ambitious scientists couldn’t wait to get away from, Ireland was transformed at the start of this decade into a place where world-class research was happening.

The financial crisis means the Irish government is now struggling to keep that momentum going.

Click here to read the blog (published 26th March, Science Insider)

Irish scientists hit by budget cuts

The precipitous fall off in funding for universities and institutes of technology – following an ‘Emergency Budget’ – will impact on researchers based in Ireland, a group that have also seen their real ‘take home’ salaries hit.

Click here to read the blog (published, 8th April ’09, Science Insider)