Robert Boyle Summer School addresses attacks on science, fake news and alternative facts

22 June 2017

Taking place from 22 – 25 June 2017 at Youghal, Co Cork and Lismore, Co Waterford the Robert Boyle Summer School is Ireland’s only summer school looking at the role science plays in our lives.

It is not for scientists but about science, bringing scientists, historians, and those interested in culture together through lectures, discussions, guided historical walks, and a hedge school to explore the role of science in our lives and culture. 

The summer school celebrates Ireland’s most famous scientist Robert Boyle and takes place at the heritage towns of Lismore and Youghal. Lismore Castle was the birthplace of Robert Boyle and Youghal was one of the main bases of the Boyle family dynasty and burial place of Robert’s father, Richard Boyle, the “Great Earl of Corke”. 

School chairman Eoin Gill, a director of Calmast, the STEM outreach centre at Waterford Institute of Technology emphasised that while the school is about science it is not just for scientists. “In this world of fake news and alternative facts, it is science that gives us a reliable way of addressing reality. We are delighted to bring leading communicators to the beautiful Blackwater Valley to explore the place of science in our culture. The summer school arena is an ideal way to bring these important issues to the fore, where the public can engage with scientists, historians, and commentators and enjoy social interaction”. 

Speakers this year include Luke Clancy, Director General of the Tobacco-Free Research Institute, who led the anti-smoking campaign in Ireland which then led the world, and Sίle Lane, Sense about Science, who led the campaign in the UK for clinical trial transparency.

Other speakers include Gaston Meskens, University of Ghent discussing the role of ethics in science and Richard Smith former Editor of the British Medical News who will speak on the many ways in which "truth" in science can be corrupted. Jim Malone retired Robert Boyle Professor from Trinity College will ask where the boundaries to science lie.

For those interested in history Michael Hunter, the world’s leading expert on Robert Boyle will discuss Boyle’s philosophy on the application of science, and Alicia Clements, daughter of the earl of Rosse, who will discuss the Parsons family scientific contribution towards a better world. Cormac O Raifeartaigh, who lectures in physics at WIT will bring proceedings up to the present day reviewing evolution of science in the 20th century. Tommy Graham of History Ireland will lead a hedge school of discussion and debate with the speakers.

The school is a carefully designed with talks, walks and social events with plenty of time for conversation. A highlight this year will be the soirée in the Jacobean Gardens at Lismore Castle (laid out by Robert Boyle’s father the “Great Earl of Corke”) with 17th century music and 21st century buffet and costumed re-enactments of Robert Boyle’s work. There will be a coach transfer for the short distance between Youghal and Lismore for participants.