TCD student has won the 2018 Mary Mulvihill Award:
DUBLIN, 23 May 2018—Trinity College Dublin (TCD) environmental science student Katie Carbonara is the 2018 winner of the Mary Mulvihill Award, the science media competition for third level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015).
One of Ireland’s most respected living scientists Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell presented the award to Katie Carbonara, which includes a cash prize of €2,000.
This year’s competition invited entries on the theme ‘Science: Whose facts? Whose truth?’. Carbonara’s winning entry explores why “blatant scientific illiteracy” is so rampant at a time of extraordinary scientific achievement. The reductionist nature of scientific inquiry may have contributed to this paradox, she suggests.
By divorcing fact from value, science has allowed itself to become beholden to the whims of political will, funding, publications, and number of citations: a contest for the most charismatic ideas and results,” she writes. “At the same time, a dichotomy exists between the idolization of science as a panacea for all the world’s ills and the deliberate attack on truths that are widely acknowledged within the scientific community”.
Abeba Birhane and Siobhán Grayson were awarded runners up. The PhD students in cognitive science and computer science at University College Dublin (UCD) submitted a joint entry which analyses the assumptions that allow algorithms to pervade our social sphere unchecked.
Data science, like other sciences, is a human endeavour and prone to human biases,” they argue. “Truth in data science is far from fixed, objective and independent of the values and interests of the data scientist herself.”
This is the second year of the Mary Mulvihill Award, set up to honour Mary’s memory and the legacy of her work. “It’s a poignant time for her family and close friends; but it’s also a proud moment, as the award allows us to continue, in a small way, Mary’s role as an educator, mentor and advocate of science,” says Anne Mulvihill, a sister of Mary, and a member of the judging panel. “This year’s winner, Katie Carbonara, has written a very accessible piece on a complex topic, questioning the discipline of science and the work that it does; Mary would have approved,” she said.