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ImageYou’ll find Mary at her main website, Ingenious Ireland. That’s where she now blogs about Ireland’s science history, and where you can find all about her Ingenious Dublin walking tours, illustrated talk, books and more.

There may be other Mary Mulvihill websites on the web, but they are not me and I have nothing to do with those sites.  One .net account has even been using my image.  If you link to that other site, please update your link to either this site, or to the main Ingenious Ireland site.  Thank you.

Mary Mulvihill is an Irish science writer and broadcaster, a columnist with The Irish Times and an award-winning author.  She runs Ingenious Ireland, where she celebrates Ireland’s rich heritage of ideas and inventions with her acclaimed walks, talks and books.

The worst mistake that people make when they write a press release, is also the most common mistake.  It isn’t forgetting to include contact details, or a date, or spelling someone’s name wrong, or including too much jargon — though we regularly see all of those mistakes.

No, the worst mistake that people make in a press release is much simpler, and more devastating.

It is telling people what you want to tell them — and not what they need to know, or what they might be interested in.

Most importantly, this is the mistake that ensures a journalist will delete your press release within seconds, because it doesn’t look relevant or interesting.

This is the kind of press release that might start by announcing…

‘Scientists from Our Institution have made an important discovery.  And the discovery was published in today’s edition of This Important Journal.  And the research team was led by Dr A. N. Other.  And now we’ll give you some background…’

But think about it.  If the discovery really is newsworthy, then an effective press release should lead with what the discovery will ‘mean’ for people.

So, a more effective press release might start by announcing:

‘A cheaper, faster test for disease A could be available as early as next year, thanks to new research.  The new test should  cut waiting times for patients, and save the health service €x million a year.

The improved test took scientists N years to develop in painstaking research at Our Institution.  But the long haul was worth it, according to team leader Dr A. N. Other. . .’

Even experienced press officers and organisations regularly make this mistake, yet it’s relatively simple to avoid.

The key is to ask yourself: what does our latest development mean for people?  Answer that question, and you’ll have the opening sentence, and the headline, for your press release.  It really is that simple.

And if you’d like to learn how to write an effective press release, our next half-day training session is in Dublin on March 7th 2012.

This will equip you with basic media skills to help you publicise your research, business, or event.  You will learn about How To:

  • Identify what makes ‘News’
  • Find out how to hit the headlines
  • Write a successful press release . . . one that isn’t instantly binned!
  • Contact journalists, and
  • Develop good media relations

If you’ve any queries, don’t hesitate to get in touch — there’s a contact link on our workshop site. And we look forward to welcoming you on the day.

The worst mistake that people make when they write a press release, is also the most common mistake.  It isn’t forgetting to include contact details, or a date, or spelling someone’s name wrong, or including too much jargon — though we regularly see all of those mistakes.

No, the worst mistake that people make in a press release is much simpler, and more devastating.

It is telling people what you want to tell them — and not what they need to know, or what they might be interested in.

Most importantly, this is the mistake that ensures a journalist will delete your press release within seconds, because it doesn’t look relevant or interesting.

This is the kind of press release that might start by announcing…

‘Scientists from Our Institution have made an important discovery.  And the discovery was published in today’s edition of This Important Journal.  And the research team was led by Dr A. N. Other.  And now we’ll give you some background…’

But think about it.  If the discovery really is newsworthy, then an effective press release should lead with what the discovery will ‘mean’ for people.

So, a more effective press release might start by announcing:

‘A cheaper, faster test for disease A could be available as early as next year, thanks to new research.  The new test should  cut waiting times for patients, and save the health service €x million a year.

The improved test took scientists N years to develop in painstaking research at Our Institution.  But the long haul was worth it, according to team leader Dr A. N. Other. . .’

Even experienced press officers and organisations regularly make this mistake, but it’s relatively simple to avoid.

The key is to ask yourself: what does our latest development mean for people?  Answer that question, and you’ll have the opening sentence, and the headline, for your press release.  It really is that simple.

And if you’d like to learn more about how to write an effective press release, our next half-day training workshop is in Dublin on September 6.

Q: How much theoretical physics can you condense into a 5-minute Ignite talk?

A: A surprising amount!

Enlighten us, but make it quick!

You know the Ignite format?  Five minutes, and 20 slides.   That’s not much time, and rather a lot of slides.

Yet it is proving to be a popular evening’s entertainment at Dublin’s Science Gallery, where it is now a monthly attraction.

Most talks that I’ve seen steer clear of attempting to communicate scientific concepts.   So I was sceptical when my resident quantum mechanic announced that he would attempt to explain symmetry, antimatter, Dirac’s equation and the LHC’s search for the Higgs particle.

It took a huge amount of work, yet I think he pulled it off.

And the image of the dragonfly missing a wing was, for me, a very effective metaphor for how Dirac discovered the existence of antimatter.

But what do you think?

Other talks that evening included Mark Conguista on death by bullet point, Peter Lynch on his Commodius Vicus walk around  Ireland, and a performance by DJ Harry Moschops.

And if you fancy the challenge giving a talk at the next Dublin Ignite event (on April 14), contact Conor Haughton, who keeps his finger on the Ignition switch here.

March 24, 2010 –: when we honour Ada Lovelace, the ‘enchantress of numbers’ and the world’s first programmer.

Ada LovelaceThis year’s Ada Lovelace day (ALD10) –  when bloggers celebrate women in technology and science — falls in the week when Ireland’s national broadcaster began looking for the “greatest Irish person ever” .  . .  with not one scientist on the shortlist, and only three women among the 40 candidates.

So, for my small contribution to ALD10, I want to remember all the women in Irish science and technology, and especially my colleagues and friends in the WITS network which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

WITS has, over the past two decades done tremendous work for women in Irish technology and science.   It was instrumental in getting Science Foundation Ireland to establish

WITS has also run training and mentoring programmes for women returning to work, compiled a ‘talent bank’ of women for nomination to State boards and authorities, published numerous policy documents,  established a successful careers programme for schoolgirls, published two books on the lives and legacies of Irish women scientists (RTE please note!), hosted numerous public events, as well as helping members with their professional and personal development.

Not to mention the wonderful support and friendship down the years.

So, to all the women in Irish technology and science, I say a big ‘Thank You’ for all you have done.  Long may you continue.

Vote now, and help to put a scientist on RTE’s list of the greatest Irish people ever.

If you’ve been following the story so far, you’ll know that the short-list of 40 candidates includes three people associated with Boyzone, only three women, and not one scientist or engineer — for what promises to be a high-profile, prime-time series in the autumn.

Now, the good people over at Science.ie have come on board, and organised an online voting campaign.

We’ve suggested some historic Irish scientists to get you started, or you can nominate someone you think merits the title of Greatest Irish Person.

So, y’all get on over there now, and start voting.  And spread the word!

Care to join me in organising a poll of the greatest Irish scientist? And let’s try and get a scientist on to RTE’s list for the greatest ever Irish person.

RTE is asking us to vote for the greatest Irish person from a shortlist of 40 people.  The top five will then each become the subject of a one-hour documentary on their life and legacy.

NASA couldn't have put a man on the moon without this Irish scientist

It’s an intriguing (hopefully controversial!) list.

Among the usual suspects  of poets and politicians, artists and actors — Daniel O’Connell, Wolfe Tone, Sean Lemass . . . –  are Stephen Gately, Colin Farrell and golfer Padraig Harrington. And about half of the 40 are still alive (shurely, you should be dead and buried and a decent time elapsed before we can judge your legacy?).

The two glaring omissions are the shortage of women — only three!! Adi Roche, Mary Robinson and Sonia O’Sullivan — and the absence of any scientist.

So, to get the ball rolling, here is my top 10 Irish scientists, in no particular order . . . 

Charles Parsons, who made it possible to electrify 20th century with widespread power generation, when he invented the steam turbine.

Harry Ferguson who revolutionised farming with a lightweight tractor that replaced the horse and plough.

Dr Dorothy Price instrumental in the fight against tuberculosis, introducing the BCG vaccine to Ireland in the 1930s (and shamefully, doesn’t yet have a Wikipedia page!)

Arthur Leared, invented the modern stethoscope in 1851, so fundamental for medicine.

William Rowan Hamilton, made it possible to put a man on the moon and satellites into space, with his radical new ‘quaternion’ algebra, invented in 1843, .

John Tyndall, explained why the sky is blue and was the first to propose the greenhouse effect (as in: global warming)

John Philip Holland, revolutionised warfare at sea when he invented the first commercial successful submarine

William Thompson, Baron Kelvin, formulated some of the early laws of thermodynamics, and among his many inventions made it possible to connect the Old World and the New  with a transatlantic telegraph.

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, x-ray crystallographer, who revealed the structure of benzene and diamond.

George Gabriel Stokes, yet another great physicist of the 19th century … his contributions to science are too many to list here!

Robert Boyle, acknowledged as the ‘father of modern chemistry’, no less.

Nicholas Callan, invented the modern induction coil, essential to electric motors

Got any favourite of your own to suggest?

And anyone know how we can start an online vote in opposition to RTE’s??

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