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The School of Biomedical Sciences’ Science in Society Initiative directed by Professor Valerie McKelvey-Martin Science in Society Initiative at Ulster was designed to:

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The School of Biomedical Sciences’Science in Society Initiative

directed by Professor Valerie McKelvey-Martin

science in society initiative at ulster was designed to
Science in Society Initiativeat Ulster was designed to:

promote discussion and understanding of science and its relevance to society and

to help equip society to take an active part in policy formation regarding the application of science

activities are designed for various groups
Activities are designed for various groups:

General public and groupings within this, particularly:

Primary school children…p6&p7

Post primary pupils..11-14, 14-16, 16-18 year olds

Teachers of science

science in society began in 2005 dedicated support from 5 placement students
Science in Societybegan in 2005 Dedicated support from 5 Placement Students:

Jane Gallagher 2005-06 - UU funded

Keri Spence 2006-07- The Honourable the Irish Society Andrea Porter 2007-08- The Honourable the Irish Society

Samantha Russell 2007-08- Bank of Ireland

Christine Green 2008-09- The Honourable the Irish Society

Part time support from 3 staff:

Dr Declan McKenna 2005-2008

David Hunter 2006-2008

Lynda Dunlop 2008-

Guided by a working group

staff from university and a few external members




launched in March 2006.

  • revamped in 2009 making it more accessible and attractive for young people
  • contains information on Science in Society activities (past, current and future),
  • a self –updating ‘current -news -in -science’ page and
  • various resources for students, teachers and others
science in society web resources include
Science in Society Web Resources include:
  • Hot topic informationon various topics:

…AIDS, Alzheimer’s Disease, Bioethics, Cancer, Cloning, Diabetes, Forensic Science, Healthy Diet and the Human Genome, Obesity, Cataracts, Myopia, Sea Level Change, Role of Technology in Sport, Drugs in Sport and Exercise and Health.

  • Mole Day Planning pack for Chemistry Teachers
  • Forward Thinking KS3 teaching resources for Science Teachers
Science in Society advertises events, activities in Science… across faculty and university ( if requested)

2 criteria :

  • Quality event/resource
  • Acknowledge all appropriate funders
activities have included
Activities have included:
  • Science in Society Public, Christmas & ConnectED lectures
  • Maths week events (with Fac Computing an Engineering and Waterford Institute of Technology
  • Roadshows for schools (with Y touring Theatre company) - Nobody Lives Forever and

-Every breath

  • Inspiring Science initiative (p6 and p7) with Susan McGrath
  • National Science week events …Chemistry Alive! (2010) 6th form chemistry students interested in pharmacy
  • Variety of competitions
lecture topics 2005 2009
Lecture topics 2005-2009
  • Dr. Nichola Rumsey
  • MOBILE PHONES & HEALTH Professor Anthony T. Barker
  • THE MAGIC OF LIGHT Dr. Paul Hagan
  • PHYSICS & MUSIC Dr. Mark Lewney
  • MUSIC, PLEASURE AND THE BRAIN Professor Harry Witchel

UNNATURAL CHOICES AND UNNATURAL CHILDREN: DESIGNER CHILDREN AND INTERFERING WITH NATURE Dr. Mark Sheehan Program on Ethics and the New Biosciences Faculty of Philosophy and James Martin 21st Century School Oxford University

  • IS BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH OVER-REGULATED? Professor Richard Ashcroft Queen Mary, University of London, Barts and the London Medical School Institute of Health Sciences Education
  • PARENTAL DISAGREEMENT, BEST INTERESTS AND CHILDREN'S VACCINATIONS Dr Angus Dawson Keele University, Centre for Professional Ethics
  • SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY? Dr Bob Brecher Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, University of Brighton

CHILDREN AS COMMODITIES? ‘REPO-TECH’ AND RISKS OF COMMODIFICATION Dr Heather Widdows Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham

  • EVOLUTION AND MORALITY Dr Neil Levy Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, University of Melbourne/ Program on Ethics and the New Biosciences, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University
  • FINDING THE INVISIBLE: ASTRONOMY AND BLACK HOLES Dr Paul Callanan Physics Department, University College Cork
  • TRACKING BIRDS: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE Dr John O’Halloran Department of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science, University College Cork
  • SUICIDE AND SUICIDE AWARENESS IN IRELAND Professor Patricia Casey  Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin
  • THE SMOKING BAN – A SUCCESS STORY Professor Luke Clancy  Professor of Respiratory Medicine, Trinity College, Dublin

MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY: THE SCIENCE OF COOKERY Professor Peter Barham, Bristol University

  • NEUROSCIENCE & BRAINWASHING Dr Kathleen Taylor, Oxford University
  • SLEEP, BODY CLOCKS AND SOCIETY Professor Russell Foster, Oxford University
  • DON’T PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD  Dr Paul Hagan , School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine
  • CARDIAC RISK IN THE YOUNG Mr Cathal Breen, School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster, Jordanstown
  • OF MICROBES AND MEN: A STORY OF HEALTH, WEALTH AND ARTIFICIAL LIFE. Professor Geoff McMullan, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine


  • Dr Miguel DeArce, Department of Genetics Trinity College Dublin
  •   Professor John Nicholson, University of Greenwich
  • Professor Sandy Steacy, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster
  • ROBOTS WITH BIOLOGICAL BRAINS AND HUMANS WITH PART MACHINE BRAINS Professor Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading


Lectures for schools

christmas lectures
Christmas Lectures
  • INFLAME YOUR BRAIN Professor Sean Callanan of University College Dublin (2008)
  • ENHANCING SPORTING PERFORMANCE : LEGAL & ILLEGAL METHODS Dr Gareth Davison, Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute, University of Ulster (2007)
road shows
Road shows
  • Science in Society collaborated with Y-touring Theatre company, London in 2007 and again in 2009 to bring Science Roadshows to post primary schools throughout Northern Ireland
  • 2007..Every Breath with facilitated discussion on usinganimals for medical research.
  • 2009.. Nobody Lives Forever with facilitated discussion on the ethics of Stem Cell Research
  • Approximately 3,000 pupils across NI attended each roadshow
  • Debate the social, moral, and scientific issues surrounding the issue
  • Drama sketch followed by a live discussion and debate involving audience participation and interaction
  • Students are encouraged to explore what they think and feel about the issues posed by the drama
every breath road show 2007 drama
Every Breath Road Show 2007 : Drama

Thought-provoking family drama involving four

main characters:

  • Sonny: the son; a vegetarian animal

rights activist

  • Anita: the daughter; a carnivorous


  • Lina: the mother; can see both sides of the argument
  • Raz: the mother’s boyfriend; has recently

discovered Buddhism

every breath road show
Every Breath Road Show :

The Y-Touring Theatre Company in discussion and debate with the pupils

every breath road show23
Every Breath Road Show

Promoting the launch of our range of school’s competitions for 2007

every breath road show conclusion
Every Breath Road Show : Conclusion
  • Road show proved to be a tremendous

success and very popular with school pupils,

teachers, head teachers, university staff and

students and also members of the general


  • Received extremely positive

feedback from both the teachers

involved and also the pupils who

took part

  • Valuable networks and communications Were opened up with schools which

will contribute to the further future success

of Science in Society

nobody lives forever 2009
Nobody Lives Forever-2009

Thought-provoking family drama involving four

main characters:

  • River (Riv): the son; Kind, hardworking, lovely young man. Overdeveloped sense of duty, due to being brought up by not always reliable mother.
  • Tracey: the mother; Ageing raver and ‘free spirit’.  Has lots of energy and love of life but not great on practicalities.
  • Phoenix (Phee): the daughter; Gifted pre-teen. Very clever in every way, but socially? Not great.
  • Cassie: River’s wife; A nurse. Warm hearted, with an earthy sense of humour

Inspiring Science-

Primary School


inspiring science
Inspiring Science
  • In 2008, Science in Society hosted 15 "inspiring science" shows at the Magee, Jordanstown and Coleraine campuses for primary school children, aged 9-11 in Northern Ireland.
  • 4848 pupils from 106 schools attended the events.
  • The aim of the inspiring science initiative was to promote science to P6 and P7 primary school children in a fun and interesting way and to run a “inspiring science” young scientist of the year 2008 competition.
  • The "Young Scientist" competition involved children carrying out a piece of hypothesis driven research (of their own choice) and reporting on it.  

“The 'Magical Science & Engineering Show' is not a show for the

timid as it involves erupting volcanoes, vats of giant bubbles,

buckets of oozy slime, magical colour changes and disappearing

acts, but most of all lots of whizz bang explosions!!

Sue McGrath - a scientist turned magician-of-sorts - delivers a

wacky, energetic and dramatic performance which not only 

delivers real experiential learning opportunities based on the

world around us, but also touches on the serious message of the

repercussions of human activity on the global environment.

The show aims to stimulate curiosity and imagination within your pupils

so they ultimately leave the show wanting to embark on their

own science journey of discovery!”

Electricity, Gravity, Energy and Forces, Molecules, Reactions, Compounds, Acids/Alkali, Friction, Sound, Recycling


Detailed Map



Student Evaluations

“It was very important to learn… I loved it!!!”

“It was absolutely amazing”


“It was fantastic and I learned a lot of things.”

Thank you for the fun stuff we learnt about science, it was SO COOL!!

“I would love to see it again”

“It was the best science show EVER!”

“Thank – you very much… after I watched the show I now know science isn’t boring”

“It was amazing… I now want to be a scientist when I’m older”

“It was very good and I hope you can inspire more schools and it couldn’t have been any better… Thank you!”

“It was the best show I’ve ever seen”

“I thought it was Brilliant, Excellent, very, very Good “

5 *

“It was weird wacky and wonderful”


Teacher Evaluations

Well timed Safety conscious All schools had at least 1 participant. You can see the students’ really enjoyed themselves

Thank you! A great show!!

Excellent delivery:

Kept children's attention

Thank you

Super fun for Kids

Great use of every day items found easily for us to use at school & home

The children realised that science is both exciting & interesting

We loved the show…

Thank you

Excellent idea for a show – Sue kept the kids spell-bound & interested

Thank you

I feel that the benefit of the show was that children became enthused by science and this was certainly achieved!

Well done


Excellent! Fun filled Science!!

Scientist Sue was brilliant - a great rapport with pupils –


V. enjoyable

The scientific concepts content chosen were an excellent choice

press release
Press Release

“It is so important that young people are inspired and challenged to rigorously interrogate the concepts and issues that underpin the policies that govern our society. This competition provides the opportunity, for 17 and 18 year olds in Northern Ireland, to do precisely this, ……..”

Science in Society.

debating matters northern ireland
Debating Matters: Northern Ireland
  • Debating competition was hosted by Science in Society in collaboration with the Institute of Ideas, London in 2008 and 2009.
  • It was aimed at sixth form students aged 17-18 years
  • Innovative and engaging approach to debating topical issues
  • Open to schools with or without debating experience and focuses on substance of the debate over style
  • Schools across Northern Ireland took part in the competition at the University of Ulster's Coleraine and Jordanstown campuses.
  • Information on topics covered and other useful website links are available at

“This competition is unique as it is much more substance over style, other competition’s are more rhetoric and focused on delivery, this is focused on research and knowledge of topic and issues. Pupils derive more out of it as they learn more on topic and not just how they sound.”

Chris Leathley, RBAI teacher.

photos and quotes
Photos and Quotes

“These students restore my faith in young people’s participation and interest in current affairs. Despite reports of apathy among young people in the UK, in relation to matters of politics and modern affairs, this was not evident in any of the debates which we participated in. These young people are the leaders of tomorrow”

Judge: Cathy


University of Ulster

photos and quotes43
Photos and Quotes

“Surprised and encouraged by the quality of the debate. Fantastic learning opportunity and I hope the competition can grow and expand in the Ireland context”

Colette Thompson

St. Malachy’s College; Dept. English

debating matters northern ireland44
Debating Matters: Northern Ireland
  • Covered a wide geographical spread across Northern Ireland, with 12 schools taking part in the competition each year.
  • Pupils debated a wide range of topics after researching them extensively, eg presumed consent for organ donation, performance enhancing drugs, cloning etc.
other competitions
Other Competitions:
  • Science Poem Competition
  • Best Science Image Competition
  • Science Newspaper Article Competition
  • Science on line Race Quiz Competition
  • ConnectED Thinking Competition & Dragon’s Den
  • Mole Day Competition(2009)
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Full SpectrumCompetition(2009)

(with Armagh Planetarium(AP) to celebrate contribution of Jocelyn Bell Burnell to astronomy)..look out for winning mural at AP.. coming soon

science around us poems and images
Science Around Us: Poems and Images

219 poems and images published

from 13 different secondary schools across Northern Ireland

inspiring science young scientist competition
Inspiring Science Young Scientist Competition
  • Each team consisted of 4-6 pupils
  • They identified a scientific question
  • They created 12 Power Point slides explaining how the experiment would be carried out.
  • They wrote up 4 A4 pages giving more detail of
  • experiment

Research Projects

to inform activities


Survey of Attitudes of Primary School (P6 and P7) teachers towards teaching science


  • Investigate how confident and equipped P6 and P7 teachers in Northern Ireland are with teaching science to primary school children.
  • To determine any intervention that would be appropriate to better equip P6 and P7 teachers for science teaching in the classroom.

The questionnaire was circulated to all primary schools in Northern Ireland (887)

  • p6 and p7 teachers took part
  • 261 questionnaires were returned: 29.4 response rate
how confident do you feel with your own science knowledge
How confident do you feel with your own science knowledge?
  • 69% of teachers feel confident or very confident with their own science knowledge and 31% of teachers felt less than confident.
how confident do you feel teaching science theory
How confident do you feel teaching science theory?
  • 74% of teachers feel confident or very confident teaching science theory and
  • 26% feel less than confident.
how confident do you feel teaching science practical
How confident do you feel teaching science practical?
  • 60% of teachers are confident or very confident teaching science practical but
  • 40% feel less than confident.
which aspect of the ks2 programme of study do you need support with or ideas for teaching
Which aspect of the KS2 programme of study do you need support with or ideas for teaching?
  • Teachers would most like support with
  • Using IT in science (70%)
  • Investigational Skills (66%).
  • Other suggestions included technology, and how science fits into “World Around Us”.
what would you feel would better equip you to teach science topics
What would you feel would better equip you to teach science topics?
  • Teachers feel that to better equip them to teach science topics they need
  • resources for practical work(75%)
  • training on infusing science with other subjects (59%)
  • Other suggestions included videos/DVDs, & schemes of work for topics.
How interested would you be in attending training if it was offered by the University of Ulster at Coleraine?

27% were very interested,31% of teachers were interested in attending training, 26% were slightly interested(total 84%) and 16% were uninterested.

what factors would hinder you from attending training courses
What factors would hinder you from attending training courses?

-Cost of cover would hinder 72% of teachers,

-travel would hinder 53%,

-heavy workload would hinder 66%.

- Other factors include family commitments, time, & teachers feeling they don’t require training

additional comments from teachers
Additional comments from teachers
  • There is less science being taught now that the curriculum is “World Around Us” and less practical work is being done.
  • Feels science has been dropped.
  • Theres a real need to take science from previous 11+ mode to a revised curriculum standpoint
  • There is a danger science will be lost in the revised curriculum as teachers don’t know what place science holds in the new curriculum.
  • Would like to see science being a core area of learning again as it feels like teachers are now less confident about teaching it.
  • This training would be very useful
  • Any help would be appreciated
  • P5 teachers should be offered the training too.
  • Training would be useful to help implement the revised curriculum.
  • Would like training at summer school.
  • research paper written and submitted for publication and
  • funding is being sought to provide cpd training support for p6 and p7 teachers with science…tailored to the needs of teachers.
Major Science in Society Research Project:Forward Thinking NI(V J. McKelvey-Martin (PI), L.Clarke, G. Humes & Lynda Dunlop)
  • 3 year project
  • Wellcome Trust funded research project
  • 11-14 year olds
acknowledgement funding sources
Acknowledgement-funding sources
  • The Bank of Ireland
  • The Honourable the Irish Society
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • The University of Ulster
  • The Biochemical Society
  • The Royal Society
  • The Royal Society of Chemistry