Featured Article 27 Jan 2012

The Irish Times 
January 27th 2012

THREE NOBEL prizewinners including Dr James Watson, who co-discovered DNA, will participate in events to mark Dublin’s year as European City of Science.

The event, which will involve the biggest scientific programme ever held in Ireland, was launched yesterday at the Convention Centre in Dublin.
The highlight of the year will be the European Science Open Forum, which takes place in the centre from July 11th to 15th. Some 5,000 delegates will attend. One of the themes will be how to bridge the gap between arts and science.
Dublin beat Vienna, which is the most popular conference city in the world, to host the European event.
The Government’s chief scientific officer Patrick Cunningham, said Ireland first put forward a bid for the event during the boom years and persisted with it despite the downturn.
The year of science programme will cost €6 million, half of which will come from public funds, with private industry funding the other half.
The launch was compered by comedian Dara Ó Briain, who recently presented the BBC Stargazing Live series, which attracted an average of four million viewers.
He said there was a “massive audience” for science if it was presented in a proper fashion.
“The idea that we have to make science ludicrously easy is nonsense. People are very happy to have their brains moved and to be flattered by this kind of stuff,” he said.
James Watson is arguably the most famous scientist taking part. He, along with Francis Crick, discovered the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953, one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the last century.
In recent years he has become a controversial figure and had to step down from an academic post in the US when he gave an interview in which he suggested that Africans were not as intelligent as white people.
Prof Cunningham said Dr Watson will be the subject of a public interview by TCD professor of biochemistry Luke O’Neill.
“It will be a public dialogue. To some extent his exuberance can be modified. I don’t expect he’ll throw over the traces this time.”
The other two laureates who are due to attend are the Australian scientist Peter Doherty, who won the 1996 prize for medicine for his work on cellular immune defence, and Jules Hoffman, who shared last year’s Nobel prize in medicine and physiology for his work on the body’s immune system.
Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director-general of Cern, one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research, and Craig Venter, who claims to have produced synthetic life in a laboratory setting, will also be keynote speakers.
The Dublin City of Science events will start with the St Patrick’s Day festival.
There will be science-themed photographic and art exhibitions, theatre pieces, film festivals, tours, trails and treasure hunts throughout the year.
Dublin won the right to host this event in a competitive bid process in 2008.

Content supplied with the permission of The Irish Times Ltd. For more see www.irishtimes.com

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