Where’s the female Brian Cox?

The Guardian had an interesting article a couple of weeks ago about the lack of female scientific role models in the UK, despite being in the midst of a Golden Age of science on (UK) TV.

One of the suggestions made for women that we should see more of on TV is Dr Aoife McLysaght, an evolutionary geneticist at the Molecular Evolution Lab Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin.

It’s interesting that an Irish female scientist is referenced because while the UK may be experiencing a renaissance of science programming, there’s not much to talk about in Ireland.

To be fair to RTE, the national state broadcaster, more effort is being made to incorporate scientific programming, particularly on youth television.

Everyone aspires to be rich and famous. We should be inspiring young people to reach that goal through achieving something, rather than simply appearing on a reality TV show. The Social Network has shown that geeks can captivate the general public. If Mark Zuckerberg can warrant the attention of TMZ, then why don’t we see the likes of the Fallon brothers from Daft.ie get more attention.

If media really wanted to create the next Carol Vorderman, they could easily do it if they were bothered. Just look at how X Factor contestants go from nobodies to tabloid fodder in the space of a few weeks. There is a concentrated media effort to make pub singers into household names, regardless of whether they are talented or not.

The lack of scientific role models is one of the biggest problems most western societies face in terms of creating a ‘smart economy.’ The reason for the is the lack of cultural appreciation for people involved in science, technology, engineering or maths. If you don’t know who Shakespeare is, you are regarded as a dunce. Can’t recite your times tables and no-one bats an eyelid.

Media need to recognise their role in helping to shift perceptions and rally to the cause. Let’s face it, Mary Byrne isn’t going to solve the recession, but inspiring Irish James Dysons will.

No Responses to “Where’s the female Brian Cox?”  

  1. 1 Emmet Ryan

    Interesting piece but how on earth does it relate to a Scottish actor who always plays some kind of wise veteran.

  2. 2 Piaras Kelly

    Don’t be cheeky, I know you’re a D:ream fan

  3. 3 Quintin

    What about our very own Liz Bonnin?

    She has a background in Science, and does a bit with the BBC there on it:

    Just a thought,


  4. 4 Piaras Kelly

    Yep, Liz is great, worked with her in the past. Just another example of the calibre of people in the field. Wish we could see a more concerted effort by Irish media to put her in the limelight.

  5. 5 Robert Coyle

    Interesting article. 3 things popped into my head while reading it:
    1 To me the thin end of the wedge is computer literacy. I have noticed that people with any compter skills, scientific knowledge or theoretical acumen are constantly referred to as “nerds” or “geeks” by the media. This may be harmless and gentle chiding, but it accumulates over time into a viewpoint. I frequently meet people who proclaim that they “don’t know how to use computers” as if that is something to be proud of, or that it identifies them somehow as living a more vital life. Not knowing how to use a computer In 2010 is the equivalent of illiteracy. The constant gentle undermining of all things scientific makes this voluntary ignorance possible and even desireable.
    2 We venerate the “naturaly gifted” over the dedicated. It is far more romantic to think of Mary Byrne; checkout lady and aspiring singer with a natural voice who just never had the breaks than it is to think of someone who puts in 10,000 hours of dedication honing their skill. Science isn’t sexy because it is not fast or immediate enough.
    3 I sound just like my Dad.

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