Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Martin Heydon, has highlighted the significance of International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is being observed today (Sunday, February 11th). As the official responsible for research and development in the department, Minister Heydon has emphasized the crucial role of women and girls in the field of science and research, particularly in relation to agriculture. He has called for a diverse range of research talent to contribute to Ireland’s aim of becoming a global leader in sustainable food systems.
The theme of this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which marks its ninth anniversary, is ‘Women in Science Leadership: A New Era for Sustainability’. Minister Heydon has expressed his department’s commitment to providing full and equal access and participation to female scientists through its research funding program, which has a strong focus on sustainability. Under the department’s Thematic Research Call 2023, a total of just over €24 million has been awarded to 20 research projects in the agri-food, forestry, and bioeconomy sectors, with several projects being led by female scientists.
One of the awarded projects, valued at just over €1 million, is being led by a research consortium headed by Prof. Olivia McAuliffe, a principal research officer at Teagasc. The objective of this project is to develop nutritious, safe, and sustainable protein-based foods through the application of fermentation technologies to Irish-grown crops such as cereals, legumes, and tubers. Prof. McAuliffe acknowledged the long-standing under-representation of women in science and stressed the importance of this International Day in addressing the issue and inspiring women and girls to pursue careers in science. She also highlighted that seven out of the ten Principal Investigators in her research consortium are women, demonstrating the significant opportunities available for women to participate in and lead major scientific research projects.
Minister Heydon commended the leadership of Prof. McAuliffe and other female scientists, emphasizing the need to harness the extensive range of talents from a diverse pool of researchers in order to achieve a globally sustainable food system. He expressed his belief that their leadership will serve as inspiration and encouragement for young women to consider careers in scientific research.