Science Activism and Advocacy

Science is for everyone, but not everyone has equal access to science, and not all scientists are treated equally. I think science communication provides a useful framework to address these issues. As a gay scientist, I am particularly interested in how the skills of science communication can be used to improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ scientists.

 
This illustration is by Liza Donnelly, from a talk I gave about House of STEM and LGBT+ STEM Day at Inspirefest 2018.

This illustration is by Liza Donnelly, from a talk I gave about House of STEM and LGBT+ STEM Day at Inspirefest 2018.

 

House of STEM 

In 2017, I founded House of STEM, a network of LGBTQ+ people working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Ireland. The network connects a community of people who work together to improve inclusion and representation of LGBTQ+ people in STEM. We organise events, campaign for more research and better policies, and we are co-organisers of LGBT+ STEM Day.

 
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We do this because:

  • 29% of LGBTQ young people avoid careers in STEM because they fear discrimination (IET, 2018)

  • LGB students are more likely to drop out of STEM degrees (Hughes, 2018)

  • 28% of LGBT+ scientists considered leaving their workplace because of discrimination (RSC, 2019)

  • 40% of LGBTQ people in STEM are not ‘out’ at work (Yoder & Mattheis, 2016)

  • 1 in 3 physicists have been urged to stay in ‘the closet’ (APS, 2015)

  • Half of trans physicists have been harassed in their own departments (APS, 2015)

 
O’Boyle is helping to carve out a special place for people who may have faced adversity in the past and are ready to celebrate their identity with their STEM peers
— Silicon Republic

LGBT+ STEM Day

I am a co-organiser of the International Day of LGBTQ+ People in STEM. The annual international event is a collaboration between nine organising groups, including House of STEM, Pride in STEM, and Out in STEM. It is supported by more than 50 scientific organisations, including CERN, Science Foundation Ireland, the European Space Agency, Wellcome, and AAAS.

 
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Pride month may be over, but the celebration of acceptance and diversity of sexuality continues today with the first international LGBTSTEM Day.
— Out Magazine

The first LGBT+ STEM Day took place on the 5th July 2018. The hashtag #LGBTSTEMDay received 11 million impressions on Twitter and 65 million impressions on Facebook. Events took place around the world, from coffee mornings in Geneva to conferences in Brazil, day-time public talks in London to night-time music and poetry performances in Detroit. We just wrapped LGBT+ STEM Day 2019, and it was bigger and more inclusive than ever.


ISL STEM Glossary

There are approximately 5,000 people in Ireland who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) as their first language. However, for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) to fully engage in STEM related subjects, there must be an agreed lexicon in Irish Sign Language for STEM terms.

 
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In 2018, a team led by Dr Elizabeth Mathews at DCU created the first ever open-access online glossary of maths terms in ISL. I worked with the team to develop public engagement and informal education frameworks as part of the project. This year, we are focusing on geography and earth science.

The ISL STEM Glossary will improve access for DHH people to STEM education and STEM careers, and will also improve the community's engagement with science.


March for Science, Ireland

In 2017, an international initiative began, to stand up for science and evidence in the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery. This 'March for Science' was political and non-partisan. As part of this initiative, I assembled a group of scientists and science communicators to organise a March for Science in Ireland

 
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On 22nd April, ‘March for Science Ireland’ took place as part of an international movement of more than 600 marches around the world. Over 1,000 people marched in Dublin to highlight the importance of international scientific collaboration, evidence-based policy-making, and science and critical thinking in our society.

Former President of Ireland, Dr Mary Robinson, spoke at the march about the importance of science for climate justice, and read the Jane Hirshfield poem, “On the Fifth Day”. Also speaking at the event were Prof Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin (University College Dublin), Dr Síle Lane (Sense About Science), and Professor Luke O’Neill (Trinity College Dublin).