“To Boldly go where no book has gone before: A joyous journey through all of science”
The Emergency Management Institute Ireland (EMII), which has its home in DCU, held a book club-style breakfast briefing with Professor Luke O’Neill to discuss his book: To Boldly go where no book has gone before: A joyous journey through all of science.
The Chairperson, Sean Ward, welcomed EMII members on campus and outlined the massive contribution Luke has made to immunology and pandemic preparedness in Ireland. Following the warm welcome, Sean handed over to Professor Caroline McMullan, Professor of Business & Society at DCU Business School, to lead the conversation with Professor O’Neill. In her opening address, Caroline recalled how the last EMII event focused on a new publication was with Professor Lucy Easthope and her book When the Dust Settles and outlined the similarity between the two authors: “I am struck by how both Luke and Lucy can recall an incident that shaped their futures, in Lucy’s case the Hillsborough disaster when she was a school girl and in Luke’s case the chemistry set given to him as a 12-year-old for Christmas. Not forgetting also, the influence of Luke’s grandmother, as she showed him the aerodynamics of a feather when he was less than 3 years old”.
To open the discussion, Luke read a favourite passage from his book. He focused on the contribution which Florence Nightingale made to the development of infection control protocols and the impact which the practices she introduced had on reducing the death rate from infection among the soldiers she nursed. Luke and Caroline discussed several themes from the book. They considered how science often advances in leaps, “where one scientist makes an important discovery and then there is rapid progress from the scientific community at large. One giant leap for humankind, if you will”. Luke outlined how the COVID-19 pandemic had delivered significant “leaps” in terms of vaccine manufacturing and the delivery mechanism deployed.
They then pondered how people accept or reject scientific evidence. In Chapter 3, “Get Your Rocks Off”, Luke wrote: “Scientists can show all the evidence there can possibly be (like the earth not being flat), but people still refuse to believe it”. This was a challenge for many members of the EMII working on the response to the pandemic. It was agreed education, scientific evidence, and strong communication were key in addressing some of the current risks we face such as vaccine hesitancy and the proliferation of fake news.
A lively and far-reaching discussion with EMII members covered how we can prepare for the next health emergency, the influence of politics and economics on vaccine production and programmes, how to communicate more effectively with the public, and Luke’s legacy to the world of science. In her closing remarks Professor McMullan encouraged all present to remember Luke’s words when faced with emergencies in the future: Keep Calm and trust the science”.
The event concluded with the EMII Chairperson, Sean Ward, presenting Professor O’Neill with a token of appreciation. The Chairperson also thanked Professor McMullan, Gavin Brown, Niamh Reilly, Anne Marie Caherty, and Catherine Bebbington from DCU Business School for organising such a successful seminar.
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