The Government, as set out in its Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, is seeking to expand the national knowledge economy through prioritised investment in scientific research and innovation under the National Development Plan (2007-2013). Geoscience will play a significant role in this process through the recently announced Griffith Geoscience Research Awards. Designed to develop Irish geoscience research capacity, it seeks to attract mobile early stage researchers from abroad to Ireland and to encourage Irish researchers to visit and work in international centres of geoscience research. This innovative scheme, managed by GSI, will provide long-term support for academic research by providing seven-year contracts for early-career researchers as well as post-graduate students. The scheme, which has application to higher education institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland, honours the memory of Richard Griffith (1784-1878), the celebrated geologist and engineer.
Applications were sought to achieve the following priority research objectives:
To facilitate open access to GSI data on a web-enabled basis. A research partner experienced in digitising and web-enabling data was sought. A number of the researchers from the successful research team would be based at GSI.
To establish an Irish Geoscience Graduate Programme on an all-island basis which would provide access to specialised geoscience modular courses.
To produce and distribute geoscience outreach products (for example, DVDs, rock specimen sets, classroom posters) to primary and/or secondary schools.
To conduct high quality research on key geoscience areas especially relating to deep geothermal energy, carbon sequestration in geological formations and groundwater resources.
In July the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Eamonn Ryan, TD, announced the signing of nine research contracts totalling €9.2million under the Griffith Geoscience Research Awards. The contracts will create an additional 13 Researcher posts, 13 PhD Studentships, 1 Research Assistant and 31 Student placements.
GRIFFITH GEOSCIENCE RESEARCH AWARDS
The following research groups and centres are being supported under this scheme:
GSI additionally supported geoscience research by providing access free of charge to its growing network of datasets and through provision of joint supervision and funding for specific research projects. A list of recently supported projects can be viewed in the Appendices to this Annual Report on www.gsi.ie.
Stimulating increased research in geoscience is important to GSI not only because of its broad positive impact on the national knowledge economy but also because it validates the methodologies employed by GSI in the provision of its services.
Future additional investments in geoscience are foreseen and they will be focused on key priorities identified in the National Geoscience Programme and supported by the broadest range of stakeholders. It is recognised that the landscape for future research funding in Ireland is extremely competitive and that a compelling set of research objectives is essential.
GSI has an additional role in stimulating the knowledge economy through the provision of key training modules for geoscience professionals and young researchers. GSI has already gained a strong reputation for its participation with FÁS, the Environmental Protection Agency and local authorities in the delivery of groundwater-related training courses. Another offering was provided in 2007 of the well-established "Course on on-site waste water treatment systems". This course took place over two weeks and an estimated 800 participants have now completed it. In addition a new course on "Groundwater Source Protection Zone Delineation" was provided in October 2007 in conjunction with the EPA and the Institute of Geologists of Ireland. This was a valuable opportunity to disseminate information on the GSI methodology of source protection. In the offshore sector, a course on seabed classification techniques, an essential interpretive tool for applications as diverse as fish habitats and aggregate resource delineation, was presented in cooperation with the Marine Institute. Support was also provided by the Bedrock and Geological Heritage Programmes for in-service practical training of geography teachers in geological aspects of the Leaving Certificate Geography Syllabus; this year's training took place in Tallaght Education Centre. GSI seeks opportunities to expand its training services as an important contribution to sustaining the national skills base.
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