16 November 2021: Three Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres will be featured in a global online series, ‘Unlocking Science’, looking at the creative approaches to the world’s most immediate and complex concerns. The series, which is produced by BBC StoryWorks Commercial Productions and presented by the International Science Council (ISC), includes films, articles and podcasts which will be hosted on a dedicated BBC.com StoryWorks webpage.

The series explores how scientific culture is changing for the better, towards a future of more effective and inclusive citizen engagement, interdisciplinary and international cooperation, and open knowledge-sharing.

Following an international call for applications, the three SFI Research Centres were successful in participating in this global series:

iCRAG researcher Dr Mark Coughlan explores how learning from local history can help plan for a more sustainable future. This five-minute film highlights the innovative use of shipwrecks to map the seabed to inform the siting of offshore windfarms as the seas around Ireland provide an abundance of wind resources. Shipwrecks disturb near-seabed currents, causing certain types of sediments to be washed away or eroded. By studying these changes, we can better predict how man-made structures including wind turbines, will behave on the seabed over time.

I-Form will feature in a six-minute film which highlights how its 3D printing solution is helping make sea travel more sustainable. The film looks at I-Form’s collaboration with County Mayo-based manufacturing company w1Da, and the development of a zero emissions electric motor for boats which harnesses the energy generated as the vessel moves through the water. The energy is captured, stored and is used to power the boat when there is no wind, thereby offsetting the need to use fuels that produce carbon emissions.  The electric motor is almost completely silent and retractable, and its blades are also designed so it has minimal impact on marine life. The film features Joan Mulloy, a professional solo sailor, who talks about the impact solutions such as this has on her, allowing her to run a genuinely sustainable sailing campaign.

Lero’s ‘Battling bias in AI’ looks at how AI is being used to champion equality and inclusivity at the cutting edge of software innovation. Researching a large image database containing millions of images use to train AI systems, Abeba Birhane, PhD student at UCD’s Complex Software Lab and Lero, discovered that it included racist, misogynistic and other offensive content.  The team at Lero are looking at the human aspects of technology and how AI is written and how it impacts people.  They’re looking at ensuring that technology doesn’t discriminate and is inclusive and to unlock its possibility to benefit marginalised people.

Dr Siobhan Roche, Director of Economy at Science Foundation Ireland said: “I sincerely congratulate the teams at iCRAG, I-Form and Lero in their involvement with this International Science Council online series, produced by BBC StoryWorks, and the development of such interesting and engaging short films. Each of these centres undertakes ground-breaking research and it is wonderful to see their work recognised by being included in this global online initiative. These films show the real-life benefits as well as the human impact of the research work. The timing of these videos coincides with the Government of Ireland’s Creating Our Future campaign, which provides the public with the opportunity to submit their ideas for research that could be explored to make our country better for all. I would encourage everyone to watch these inspirational films, think about the areas of your life that you this research could contribute to a better future and submit your ideas.”