All posts by John Breslin

NUI Galway (Professor, Electronic Engineering; Programme Director, TechInnovate), Confirm & Insight (Co-PI), VistaMilk (FI), PorterShed & WestBIC (Director)

Astérix and the Historical Interpretation


The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well not entirely! One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium…

And especially so given that one of those indomitable Gauls is the legendary fictional French hero Astérix [Verdaguer, 1988], who has fought many battles and defeated numerous opponents (including many Romans) since he first appeared on the comics scene in 1959… But may he have met his match in this historical interpretation? Can his magic potion save him and his friends from being analytically dissected for the purposes of this article? We shall see… 

Before Astérix

The Astérix series was co-created by Alberto Aleandro Uderzo (1927 – 2020), a French comic book artist and scriptwriter [Wikipedia Uderzo, -], and René Goscinny (1926 – 1977), a French comic editor and writer [Wikipedia Goscinny, -]. 

Both of Astérix’s creators, Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny, knew something of being a stranger in a strange land, with Uderzo’s family having come from Italy and the Goscinny family originally from Poland. 

Perhaps Astérix et al.’s far flung adventures around the world (and poking fun at those crazy Romans) are less of a surprise in this context…

Albert Uderzo was to be named after his predeceased brother Albert, but his father’s strong Italian accent meant that the French registry office only heard ‘Alberto’ when he meant ‘Albert’, and they registered him as Alberto instead. As Uderzo said:

I once asked [my father]: “Why did you give me an Italian first name, considering we live in France?” His reply was typical for him: “I didn’t try to register you as Alberto, but instead as Alberto.” It was hopeless. Without noticing it, my father pronounced ‘Albert’ the Italian way. [Uderzo et al., 1985]

Goscinny had also spent many years in Argentina where he grew up, but he lived for some time in the United States. He is also known for a prolific amount of writing work including his creations Le Petit Nicolas and Iznogoud, and from when he joined Belgian cartoonist Morris to work on the Lucky Luke series for many years.

Goscinny and Uderzo met in the latter’s Paris apartment to come up with an idea for a comic book that they hoped would entertain the growing market of teenage bande dessinée readers. They looked for inspiration in the different epochs of French history as was taught to them in school, gradually seizing on the time of the Gauls as being the perfect setting for their new series [Dandridge, 2008] and that would liberally mine cultural references and identities from both historical and present (at the time) French and European society [Mutta, 2016].

The resulting series abounded in contemporary cultural references, literary allusions, anachronisms, satire, and caricature. Don Quixote, James Bond, the Beatles, Jacques Lacan, the Statue of Liberty, Louis XIV, William Tell, Zorro, the Moulin Rouge, Napoleon the First, the M1 motorway, Jacques Chirac, and Cole Porter’s ‘I Love Paris in the Springtime’ all made appearances in Astérix, as did textual or visual references to the cultural masterpieces of Fellini, Shakespeare, Pagnol, Rembrandt, Rodin, Géricault, Hugo, and Bruegel. [Dandridge, 2008]


And so it was that in 1959, the comic strip Astérix was launched on an unsuspecting French public. It was the year that the French Fourth Republic was replaced by the Fifth Republic, with Charles de Gaulle beginning as President on the 8th of January 1959 and taking the reins from René Coty. It was de Gaulle, of course, who had led Free France against Nazi Germany some 15 years earlier.

Neither Uderzo (who at 12 was too young to fight) or Goscinny (also too young, and who was still living in Argentina at the time), had an active part in World War II, but they would almost certainly have felt its effects as did most of the world. (Also at the age of 12, Uderzo’s parents discovered that he was colour blind. For his later artwork, he got around this by applying labels to indicate what colours he wanted to be used.) [Wikipedia Uderzo, -]

Uderzo’s brother Bruno fought in the war for France and survived, and Goscinny (whose family were Jewish) later joined the French Army in 1946.

Something of a parallel can be seen, therefore, in the tale of the small Gaulish village that resisted the Roman imperial forces who had control of much of Europe in 50 BC (Figure 1), just as the Third Reich occupied much of Europe and France in the prior decade, with the themes of resistance, occupation and collaboration seen throughout.

Figure 1: Map of the Roman Republic in the mid-1st century BC, around when Astérix is set. Image used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

In the 1963 comic Astérix and the Banquet, the fifth in the series, Astérix bets Caesar’s inspector general that he and Obélix will be able to escape a stockade erected around their village by the occupation army, and collect regional food and drinks from around Gaul for a banquet. Many of the towns and cities they visit on their culinary ‘Tour de France’ happen to be those found on various map of Nazi-occupied France [Kalita, 2014].

The collaborators Unpatriotix and Uptotrix may be in the minority of the Gauls, but there are clearly echoes of Vichy here [Roll-Pickering, 2017]. We also have the ‘Resistance Movement’ appearing in Lugdunum (the later site of Lyon), no doubt a reference to the French resistance that was active in Lyon during World War II.

In 1960s France, scientists René Dumont [Wikipedia Dumont, -] and Philippe Lebreton  [Wikipedia Lebreton, -] were two of the most prominent environmental voices to be heard in the circles of media and politics, highlighting the world’s environmental plight at the time, growing pollution issues, and even globalisation, with Dumont being one of the first French people to explain its consequences.

Coming at the very beginning of the 1960s, the second Astérix volume Astérix and the Golden Sickle references pollution and traffic in another sign that it was somehow ahead of its time in terms of addressing issues of note.

As mentioned earlier, the creators of Astérix were fond of referencing not just current French and European society, but also many historical references, including their 1966 reworking (Figure 2a) of Géricault’s famous French painting The Raft of the Medusa (Figure 2b).

Figure 2: Art imitating historical art. (a) A frame from the 1966 comic Astérix the Legionary. The translated line “We’ve been framed, by Jericho” is a pun on the name of the artist Géricault. Image used under a fair use policy.
(b) The Raft of the Medusa by French painter Théodore Géricault from 1818–1819. Public domain.


It was at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games that athlete doping reared its ugly head for the first time. Bronze-winning Swedish athlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was found to have taken ethanol during the modern pentathlon event [Wikipedia Doping Olympic, -]. The number of athletes found to have taken illegal substances jumped from that one in 1968 to seven in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, which coincidentally was the period during which Astérix at the Olympic Games had first appeared in serial form in 1968 and then later in a single volume in 1972.

The comic is a thinly-veiled satire on the use of performance-enhancing drugs by sportspeople at that time (and still of relevance today). 1960s France had already seen a number of doping scandals in relation to the Tour de France, with cyclists refusing and failing tests over the years [Wikipedia Doping Tour, -]. Jacques Anquetil, the five-time Tour de France winning French cyclist in the 1950s and 1960s, had openly admitted to doping in 1971 [Mason, 2012].

Tying back into popular culture of the time, 1970’s Astérix in Switzerland also had a reference to the 1969 Satyricon, a film by famed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini.


One of the most seismic events in Europe during the late 20th century was the fall of the Berlin Wall in France’s neighbour Germany during 1989. Earlier that decade, Uderzo, who by now was writing on his own following the untimely death of Goscinny during a routine stress test at his doctor’s in 1977, produced a thinly veiled metaphor for (and condemnation of) the Berlin Wall in 1980’s Astérix and the Great Divide, under the guise of a Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale.

In this comic, a ditch built between the warring tribes in a small Gaulish village represents an inversion of the structure which was still separating East and West Berlin at the time. The latest panel of the comic has the following conversation between two of the characters [Uderzo, 1980], again alluding to the perceived ludicrousness of the wall:

“All that about the Great Divide really does sound most improbable.”


It was so ridiculous I daresay future generations will never believe a word of it!”


Unfortunately, Uderzo’s treatment of feminism in Astérix and the Secret Weapon is less flattering and less sensitive than the earlier satires of war and strife in Europe. The 1991 comic parodies feminism and gender equality, and Uderzo’s sexist treatment of women in the book will almost certainly upset many readers today. 

Thankfully, developments in France during the 1990s as regards feminism and equality were slowly progressing, building on the previous decade’s improvements including the 1983 law that was passed against sexism, the reform of a father’s sole power over children’s property in 1985, and other legal reforms giving women equal rights and responsibilities in marriage (and later in PACS) [Martin and Théry, 2001].

The Court of Cassation authorised the prosecution of spouses for sexual assault after a landmark case in 1990, and in 1994 a French law was passed that criminalised all marital rape (overriding loopholes in the 1810 French Penal Code) [Wikipedia Feminism France, -].

Workplace sexual harassment was made a legal offence in 1992, and “Le Manifeste des Dix [Pour La Parité]” was published in L’Express newspaper in 1996 by both left and right-wing politicians as a manifesto for the equal representation of women in the French political arena [Barzach et al., 1996].


Only two volumes of Astérix were published during this period, although there were four Astérix and Obélix movies produced including three live action ones with Gérard Depardieu.

2005’s Astérix and the Falling Sky was Uderzo’s last volume. While it was the first to contain science fiction elements (aliens), it was also seen as a satire of the earlier 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies on the premise of removing the country’s (unconfirmed) weapons of mass destruction. The aliens have also been described as a “heavy-handed attempt to parody American cultural imperialism” [Schofield, 2009].


Writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad took over production of the Astérix series from Uderzo in 2013. To date, they have produced four volumes (one every two years).

In 2015’s Astérix and the Missing Scroll (which was also the last volume to be translated into English by long-time translator Anthea Bell), there are a whole slew of characters that allude to events of the time around whistleblowing and document leaks. The character Bigdhata is almost certainly a reference to whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. The newsmonger Confoundtheirpolitix somewhat resembles Julian Assange, and was apparently almost called Wikilix [France 24, 2015]. Assange had also petitioned the French government to grant him refugee status in 2015 via an open letter to François Hollande in Le Monde.

Making up somewhat for its earlier poor depictions of female characters, in 2019 Astérix featured the first female hero in its 60-year span with the new character Adrenaline in Astérix and the Chieftain’s Daughter. Adrenaline is a rebellious teenager who is the daughter of Gaulish chief Vercingetorix. When questioned by a reporter, Ferri and Conrad said that any similarities between Adrenaline and environmental activist Greta Thunberg were purely by chance [Nandi, 2019]. Illustrator Conrad also declared:

We didn’t want to develop a character who would be based on her seductive side as we usually do with female characters in Astérix. Most of the time they are young attractive women who seduce Obelix and their role stops there.

The same comic also features a caricature of popular French-Armenian singer Charles Aznavour who had died the previous year.


Like many popular books, movies and TV shows, comics often feature cultural references and historical figures that may sometimes go over one’s head, and certainly can go over the heads of some younger readers. As we have seen in this article, Astérix is full of historical references to events of the time, relevant to the decades during which the various volumes were published. We can see these comics as reflections of the world as observed by Uderzo and Goscinny, a practice that has been continued by their successors, and I am sure, this will continue well into the future by the later custodians of Astérix and his friends in Gaul.


  1. [Barzach et al., 1996] Michèle Barzach, Frédérique Bredin, Edith Cresson, Hélène Gisserot, Catherine Lalumière, Véronique Neiertz, Monique Pelletier, Yvette Roudy, Catherine Tasca, Simone Veil, “Le Manifeste des Dix”, L’Express, 1996.  
  2. [Chandrasekharan and Dippold, -] Sudhakar Thaths Chandrasekharan and Ron Dippold, “Astérix Annotations” website, retrieved 4th May 2021. 
  3. [Dandridge, 2008] Eliza Bourque Dandridge, “Producing Popularity: The Success in France of the Comics Series ‘Astérix le Gaulois’”, MA Thesis, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA, 2008.
  4. [France 24, 2015] France 24, “Astérix to Team Up with Assange-Like Character in New Comic”, 2015. 
  5. [Kalita, 2014] Jyotishman Kalita, “Historicising Astérix and Obelix: A Case for Graphic Literature”, Delhi University, 2014. 
  6. [Martin and Théry, 2001] Claude Martin, Irène Théry, “The PACS and Marriage and Cohabitation in France”, International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, Oxford University Press (OUP), vol. 14, no. 3, pp.135-158, 2001.
  7. [Matson, 2012] John Matson, “When-if Ever-Was Cycling Drug-Free?” Scientific American, 2012. 
  8. [Mutta, 2016] Maarit Mutta, “The Astérix Series: Gallic Identity In A Nutshell?”, Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art, vol. 3, no. 1, 2016.
  9. [Nandi, 2019] Sonali Nandi, “Meet Adrenaline: Astérix gets first female hero in 60-year history”, The Guardian, 2019. 
  10. [Rivière, -] Stéphane Rivière, “Astérix Le Gaulois” website, retrieved 4th May 2021.
  11. [Roll-Pickering, 2017] Tim Roll-Pickering, “Astérix and the Banquet by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo – Volume 5”, The 9th Art Form, 2017. https:// 
  12. [Schofield, 2009] Hugh Schofield, “Should Astérix Hang Up His Sword?”, BBC News, 2009. 
  13. [Uderzo, 1980], “Astérix and the Great Divide”, 1980.érixAndTheGreatDivide_201805/page/n43/mode/2up 
  14. [Uderzo et al., 1985] Albert Uderzo, Christian Philippsen, Bernard De Venteronne, “Uderzo: de Flamberge à Astérix”, Les Editions Albert René, 1985.
  15. [Verdaguer, 1988] Pierre Verdaguer, “Le Héros National et Ses Dédoublements dans San-Antonio et Astérix”, The French Review, vol. 61, no. 3, pp. 605-616, 1988. 
  16. [Wikipedia Doping Olympic, -] Wikipedia, “Doping at the Olympic Games” article, retrieved 4th May 2021.
  17. [Wikipedia Doping Tour, -] Wikipedia, “Doping at the Tour de France” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. 
  18. [Wikipedia Dumont, -] Wikipedia, “René Dumont” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. 
  19. [Wikipedia Feminism France, -] Wikipedia, “Feminism in France” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. 
  20. [Wikipedia Goscinny, -] Wikipedia, “René Goscinny” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. 
  21. [Wikipedia Lebreton, -] Wikipédia (en français), “Philippe Lebreton” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. 
  22. [Wikipedia Uderzo, -] Wikipedia, “Albert Uderzo” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. 

How Jean-Michel Jarre has reflected France and the world through his music over multiple generations

Who is JMJ? In 1948, French electronic musician Jean-Michel Jarre was born in Lyon. His mother, France Pejot, was a Lyonnaise resistance fighter and concentration camp survivor, and his father, Maurice Jarre, was a composer of film music (including the soundtracks to David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago”).

Like many pop and rock stars, Jarre has undergone multiple phases in his career. Starting with analogues synthesizers in the 1970s and 1980s, he then turned to digital instruments and other genres (including jazz) during the 1990s and 2000s, before returning to his roots with the “Oxygène” and “Équinoxe” sequels plus the “Electronica” albums in the 2010s.

However, apart from the forms of music he has composed, throughout his career, his musical inspirations have reflected the developments of the day, from the East-West divide in the 1980s through to mobile phones and the loss of online privacy in the 2010s. He has also been one of the top ambassadors for French electronic music for nearly fifty years, influencing multiple generations through his albums, but also via his large-scale outdoor concerts with spectacular light and laser shows that have been held all over the globe.

Origins. Although he did not live long with his father, composer Maurice Jarre, who moved to the US when he was just 5, Jarre had a number of musical and technical influences as a child, including: his mother’s father, who was an oboe player and audio engineer; the street music performers he used to watch and listen to from his grandparents’ apartment; and his visits to Parisian jazz club “Le Chat Qui Pêche” with his mother where he encountered the likes of Chet Baker. After a stint as an artist, he went on to take lessons at the Conservatoire de Paris, and in 1968 Jarre joined the Groupe de Recherches Musicales (GRM) of Pierre Schaeffer who had developed the “musique concrète” (real music) movement and became an early mentor of Jarre’s. During this time, Jarre also worked at the studio of famous composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in Germany. It was with Schaeffer that Jarre discovered the Moog synthesizer, and he created a small synthesizer-heavy studio for producing music in his own flat. He used this to compose music for a number of movies, and also worked on the lyrics and music for some popular French singer-songwriters including François Hardy.

The Hit. Jarre recorded his first major album “Oxygène” at home in 1976, using synthesizers and a multi-track recording system. He found it difficult to get a record deal, but Hélène Dreyfus, who had also been in GRM with Pierre Schaeffer, persuaded her husband Francis Dreyfus to give him a chance on his label Disques Motors, later Disques Dreyfus. It worked out well for Dreyfus, because the album went on to become one of the best selling French albums of all time, selling 18 million copies worldwide [Salazar-Winspear, 2016].

Concerts vs. Albums. Although it has become a more modern trend to focus on concerts as opposed to albums, Jarre was an early adopter. After his follow-up album to “Oxygène”, “Équinoxe”, he held his first big concert on Bastille Day 1979 at Paris’ Place de la Concorde. There were a million people in attendance, which gained him a mention in the Guinness Book of Records. In fact, this was a record he went on to break three more times, and he still holds joint first place for the largest concert ever: 3.5 million people in Moscow in 1997.

Bridging the East-West Divide. Following the release of his next album “Magnetic Fields” in 1981, Jean-Michel Jarre became the first Western pop star to play a concert in communist China. Prior to this, he had just become the first Western musician to have his records played on Chinese radio, and he was subsequently invited by the Chinese Government to give two concerts in Beijing and Shanghai, playing his famous “Laser Harp” instrument there for the first time. These concerts were later released on album as “The Concerts in China”.

Music: Industry or Art? In 1983, Jarre recorded an album called “Music for Supermarkets”, but only cut a sole copy of the record onto vinyl, in an apparent rebellion against the commercialisation of music:

“In a time when everything is standardized, overbroadcast, a time when we are endlessly overinformed, saturated with sounds and images, it seemed to me worthwhile to demonstrate that a record is not only a piece of merchandise without value, infinitely multipliable, but it can be, like a painter’s picture or a sculptor’s bronze, an integral part of a musician’s creation.” [Palladev, 2017]

After being broadcast (and pirated) in mono on AM Radio Luxembourg, the record was auctioned in a mode akin to an art piece. To protest against what he called the silly industrialisation of music, Jarre had the master tapes destroyed. However, some parts of “Supermarkets” made their way onto his next experimental album “Zoolook”, where Jarre tried out a new approach towards producing “ethnic music” by substituting the notes of a synthesizer with audio samples of various languages from all around the world. 

To Space. With his ambient electronic sounds often associated with space and technology, Jarre composed one of the pieces on his next album “Rendez-Vous” to be played by astronaut and saxophonist Ron McNair during a NASA space mission. Unfortunately, the Space Shuttle Challenger with McNair on board broke apart just over a minute into flight on the 28th January 1986. At a concert in Houston in April that same year, “Ron’s Piece” as it became known was played by their mutual friend Kirk Whalum. The concert itself was another record breaker in terms of attendance, with up to 1.5 million people attending.

Technology Revolution. With the rise of personal computers in the 1980s, Jarre composed the album “Revolutions” which musically described the various stages of industrial and technological development, from the Industrial Revolution through to the (then) modern day advent of televisions, robotic production lines and computing. Much of this conflict between technology and what it enabled (or stymied) is reflected in the vocoder (synthesized human voice) lyrics to his song “Revolution/Revolutions”:

Human; Not Human
Freedom; No Freedom
Change; No Change
Employment; No Employment
Choice; No Choice
Memory; No Memory
Sex; No Sex
Future; No Future
Computer; No, No Computer
Sex; No, No, No Sex
Memory; No, No, No Memory
Choice; No Choice
Freedom; No, No Freedom
TV; No, No, No TV
Change; No, No Change
Revolution!” [Jarre, 1988]

Mobile Phone Love: After some more experimental albums in the 1990s and 2000s (including the 47-minute track “En Attendant Cousteau” in 1990, his first mostly lyrics album “Metamorphoses” in 2000, and the jazzy ambient albums “Sessions 2000” and “Geometry of Love” of 2002 and 2003), Jarre went on to collaborate with a variety of popular musicians and even public figures on his two “Electronica” albums in 2015 and 2016, ranging from sci-fi/horror film director (and composer) John Carpenter to the Pet Shop Boys. On the first “Electronica 1” album, in a third collaboration with Laurie Anderson whom he had previously worked with on “Zoolook” and also on his 2000 album “Metamorphoses”, the song “Rely on Me” provided a wry take on our relationship with mobile phones [Anderson and Jarre, 2015]:

“I likeTaking careOf youAsk me anything…”

As Jarre said in an interview with [Venker, 2015]: “I wanted to do a love song with a connected object. … We touch those things more than our partners most of the time.”

The Right to Data Privacy: On the 2016 “Electronica 2” track “Exit” with the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, Jean-Michel Jarre and Snowden tackled the right to privacy and the manipulation of big data. Snowden’s voice forms the introduction to the song:

“Saying that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. It’s a deeply anti social principle because rights are not just individual, they’re collective, and what may not have value to you today may have value to an entire population, an entire people, an entire way of life tomorrow. And if you don’t stand up for it, then who will?” [Snowden and Jarre, 2016]

In The Guardian, Jarre describes the collaboration as a “hectic, obsessive techno track, trying to illustrate the idea of this crazy quest for big data on one side and the manhunt for this one young guy by the CIA, NSA and FBI on the other” [Gabbatt, 2016].

There’s an App for That (Generative Music). Developed with Sony Labs, “EōN”, released in 2019, was Jarre’s foray into providing generative electronic music on mobile phones. Although this had been tackled by others like Brian Eno some years earlier (“Bloom”), Jarre’s version incorporated the ability for him to include new segments and sequences through subsequent app upgrades and updates. Apps can be transient things, but if properly maintained, this could be the means for new instances of Jarre’s music to live on in perpetuity, for new songs to keep on being created long after he stops composing albums himself. And let’s hope that that won’t happen for a while yet.

John and Jean-Michel Jarre, 2017


[Anderson and Jarre, 2015]

Laurie Anderson and Jean-Michel Jarre, Lyrics from “Rely on Me”,, 2015., Retrieved 17th March 2020.

[Gabbatt, 2016]

Adam Gabbatt, “Edward Snowden Releases Techno Song with Jean-Michel Jarre”, The Guardian, 28th April 2016., Retrieved 19th March 2020.

[Jarre, 1998]

Jean-Michel Jarre, Lyrics from “Revolution/Revolutions”,, 1998., Retrieved 13th March 2020.

[Palladev, 2017]

George Palladev, “Jean Michel Jarre — Music for Supermarkets. Story Behind One-Copy Album”, Medium, 3rd June 2017., Retrieved 16th March 2020.

[Salazar-Winspear, 2016]

Olivia Salazar-Winspear, “Jean-Michel Jarre: Breathing New Life into ‘Oxygène’”, France 24, 6th December 2016., Retrieved 14th March 2020.

[Snowden and Jarre, 2016]

Edward Snowden and Jean-Michel Jarre, Lyrics from “Exit”,, 2016., Retrieved 10th March 2020.

[Venker, 2015]

Thomas Venker, “The Perfect Definition of an Artist: Different Declarations of the Same Obsession” [An Interview with Jean-Michel Jarre], Kaput Magazine, 13th October 2015., Retrieved 11th March 2020.

Professorships: Academic Trajectory and Tips for Applicants

A photo I took of the solar eclipse in 2015, available from

In June 2019, I received informal word that I was to be promoted to a Personal Professorship in Electronic Engineering at the National University of Ireland Galway, with the formal letter coming in early July. The promotion process as a whole has become a lot more transparent in recent years, with evaluation and scoring criteria published online, and the process is still being improved. I believe it is useful for those who are thinking of applying to have some guidance from someone who has gone through the system, and therefore I wanted to write this blog post of tips and in parallel share my application with colleagues. (When I had gone through the Senior Lecturer promotion process at NUI Galway, I was also asked by the University to share my application and record a video with some tips for internal use.)

The term “professor” is used quite differently in the US and in Ireland (and the UK, which has a very similar academic structure to Ireland). A professor in the US can be tenured or non-tenured, junior or senior. I spoke at Stanford in 2013 about being a “professor entrepreneur” even though at the time I was still a Lecturer (a level below Associate Professor). In the UK and Ireland, a full professor refers to the most senior academic position. In terms of full professors, there are two main types: Established and Personal. Typically an Established Professor (sometimes called an Established Chair) also acts as the Head of Department (or Discipline), and the pay scale goes a bit higher than that of the Personal Professor. The Personal Professor does not necessarily have formal departmental responsibilities. According to a recent report on NUI Galway via the HEA, “the Personal Professor grade in NUI Galway is similar to a Personal Chair in other institutions”. In another definition, a “‘personal professor’ […] is a full professor academically, without management role”. I also found this explanation of a full professor from “Professors hold a ‘chair’ in a subject which can be either established or personal. Established chairs exist independently of the person who holds it, and if they leave the chair can be filled by someone else. A personal chair is awarded to a specific individual in recognition of high levels of achievement. If they leave, there is no guarantee the chair will be available for someone else.

As background, I will give you an overview of my academic trajectory. I started as a contract lecturer in 2000, having done a small bit of part-time teaching in the late 1990s. I taught for four years, worked hard at my teaching and administrative duties, finished off my PhD in 2002, but didn’t get to do a whole lot of research (one or two papers and some small projects). In fact, research was just becoming a really important thing at the University, although I didn’t know it yet. I applied for an academic position (Lecturer) in my Department, didn’t get it (no research funding), and had to look for other opportunities. This was pretty difficult for me, because I’d been ‘doing’ electronics for 14 years since my undergrad and there were no other academic vacancies in this area.

Anyway, I applied for a position as a postgraduate researcher at a newly formed research institute (DERI) in 2004 where I switched to an entirely different area (the Semantic Web) and worked there for four years. I nearly didn’t get in in the first place because I wasn’t really a fit (EE, not CS), but a kind person and mentor vouched for me. I got a lot of experience in paper writing and research projects which really stood to me later. In 2008, I applied for and was appointed as a Lecturer (Above the Bar) in Electronic Engineering. For my interview, I structured my presentation around what I brought and what I would do in six areas: basic research, publications, applications, projects, collaborations and outreach. I was promoted in 2014 to Senior Lecturer, and then as mentioned to Personal Professor in 2019. But I had my share of failures along the way too. I applied for a Personal Professor position in 2014 and had a very difficult interview due to illness and timing. I applied for some more professorial positions last year and didn’t even get shortlisted (not a fit). But the promotion route worked out in the end.

Apart from the obvious requirements of high levels of achievement to academic scholarship in the areas of teaching, research and contribution, it is difficult to know how to structure a promotion application because everyone keeps theirs to themselves (it’s a secret!) and there’s little precedent/a lack of templates to base a new application on. Here are some of my tips about how to plan and structure an application:

  • You should be thinking ahead – about a year in advance of the deadline – in terms of putting your application together, as it takes a lot of time. In my case, I knew when I was eligible to apply for both Senior Lecturer and Personal Professor (i.e., when I would hit the top of the pay scale), and therefore planned to gather material about a year back from the next promotion application date after that would happen.
  • Make sure you are fully aware of all the required documents and what is needed in each. In NUI Galway, there is a cover letter, an application form, a CV, a list of publications, and a teaching portfolio.
  • Try and add some structure to your cover letter. I made some paragraphs with a first phrase in bold, roughly corresponding to the essential and desirable eligibility requirements of another professor job advertisement I found, and with the rest of the paragraph outlining the highlights of what I brought to the role under each heading. The evaluation criteria in Section 3 or the new detailed evaluation and scoring criteria in Appendix 5 of the Guide to Applicants could equally well serve as these headings.
  • For the application form, try and use bullet points where possible, especially for contributions (this will also help with the word limits). Add pictures where appropriate.
  • If you’re a LaTeX user, do read my previous post about “My Curriculum Vitæ/Résumé Template for Researchers/Academics using LaTeX”, and even if you’re not, have a look at the headings I use in my LaTeX CV here:
  • Don’t leave writing your CV until the last minute. In fact, you should have your CV always ready for additions, almost like a wiki page. Once something new happens – a public talk, a committee invite, a media interview, etc. (and there is nearly always an email message associated with this), don’t just answer yes and file the message away. Put the item in your CV first and then file the corresponding message(s) away.
  • If you haven’t already taken a postgraduate qualification in teaching and learning, you should probably do so. This will help a lot with putting together the required Teaching Portfolio. The Guide to Applicants has a section on the Teaching Portfolio which lists nine areas and associated sub-areas, which I used as my major and minor headings (along with additional minor headings I added for sub-areas not covered).
  • Be prepared to provide more information if you pass through the various stages of the process. In my case, after about eight months (passing the ‘Prima Facie’ stage), I was asked to provide a soft copy of what I considered to be my most important publications (from a minimum of five to a maximum of ten). After another five months, I was given the opportunity to provide an updated addendum to my application (on recent achievements and activities) for consideration by the Board.
  • Be prepared for delays. The process took nearly a year and a half from submission to notification. As well as the formation of an internal Promotions Board, external assessors have to be found in the relevant area of expertise and who will accept the invitation to assess an application.
  • To give you an idea of the lengths of my submitted documents, my cover letter was three pages, application form was 15, CV was 35, publications list was 14, teaching portfolio was 46, selected/highlighted publications was 2 (for the index) plus the papers themselves, and the later addendum was 10 pages. Unlike the Senior Lecturer process which involved an interview, the Personal Professor process at NUI Galway is (at the moment) entirely by application, with supplemental documents requested/provided along the way.

(Colleagues in NUI Galway can request access to my promotion applications for both SL and PP by emailing me with the subject “Promotion Applications”… Best of luck!)

TechInnovate’s 2018 in Review

It was another great year for TechInnovate at NUI Galway… Here is a review of our 2018 activities in the areas of entrepreneurship education and technology innovation!

  • We kicked off our €1M STARTED Project in January to teach researchers how to create startups, funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Knowledge Alliances programme. Our consortium partners are EYIF, IESE Business School, RomaTre University, Translated/Pi Campus and VentureHub, and the project is led by Gabriel Mullarkey. Prior to joining us, Gabe worked as lead designer and researcher with the innovation and ecosystem group of Intel Labs Europe for over six years.
  • In January, EY was announced as a key sponsor of TechInnovate (Irish Tech NewsGalway Advertiser).
  • Dr Paul Flynn ran the very successful START ME UP innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship bootcamp for 30 transition year students in January, with organisation by Arline Broder.
  • Dr Flynn was selected for and took part in MIT’s prestigious Entrepreneurship Development Program in January, an intensive executive education program designed for CEOs, academics and government leaders who want to develop entrepreneurial skills within their organisations or regions.
  • Dr John Breslin gave an invited talk to the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences on Disciplined Entrepreneurship for Researchers, and another on Technology Innovation to the MaRITec-X Horizon 2020 Project, also in January.
  • Dr Breslin was quoted in TechIreland’s “State of the Innovation Nation” January report on the need for more agritech innovations and idea-stage agritech companies (Silicon RepublicIrish Times).
  • Dr Breslin participated in the Thematic Cluster Meeting on University-Business Cooperation at the European Commission in Brussels at the end of January/beginning of February.
  • In February, Dr Breslin visited Capital Factory, the largest startup space and accelerator in downtown Austin, Texas, where he met with CEO and serial entrepreneur Joshua Baer. He also had a meeting with Cam Houser, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and founder of 3 Day Startup (3DS).
  • Drs Flynn and Breslin visited The Yield Lab Galway agtech accelerator in February, where they met with Director of Operations Nicky Deasy.
  • In February, Dr Breslin presented on the Western AgInnovation Ecosystem at the Ryan Institute Annual Research Day.
  • Gabriel Mullarkey attended the University-Business Forum in Sofia in February to explore how universities and businesses cooperate for modernisation and growth.
  • Also in February, Drs Flynn and Breslin spoke to participants on the Youth Academy run by Dr Rachel Hilliard at NUI Galway, where many great young minds were working on important social innovation issues.
  • In March, Dr Breslin was a member of the Judging Panel for the Irish Defence Forces Chief of Staff’s Innovation Award.
  • The TechInnovate Industry Training Programme was held in March, with 15 participants from various organisations including the Irish Defence Forces, WDC, and GMIT.
  • Also in March, Dr Breslin gave a workshop to students on “Who is Your Customer” at Blackstone LaunchPad in NUI Galway.
  • Gabriel Mullarkey was a member of the Judging Panel for Startup School in March, run by the Entrepreneurship Society at NUI Galway.
  • Also in March, TechInnovate Fellow Kelsey Roberts gave an inspiring talk on her entrepreneurship experience as part of the #InnovateHER series at Blackstone LaunchPad.
  • Dr Breslin taught a one-day workshop on Disciplined Entrepreneurship as part of a course on “Applying Innovation” to 40 PhD students at the University of Minho, Guimarães in Portugal during March.
  • Dr Breslin mentored Irish participants in the SAP.iO Accelerate programme in March at SAP in Galway (and again in November at the PorterShed).
  • Dr Breslin also mentored teams during a March session at Bank of Ireland’s startlab Galway.
  • Dr Flynn and Gabriel Mullarkey judged the first Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Academy Bootcamp (West) in Galway in May.
  • In May, the team behind “I Can See You Now”, which evolved out of the TechInnovate TRICS module in 2017, won 2nd Prize at the inaugural NUI Galway Explore Innovation Awards. Gerard Comerford from the PGDip in TechInnovation also pitched as part of the competition. Drs Flynn and Breslin mentored the Coink team who took part.
  • Gabriel Mullarkey and Dr Flynn co-organised a TY Hackathon in May for 40 students in the PorterShed to create future smart city solutions for Galway 2040.
  • Dr Breslin gave an invited talk on “Collaborative Leadership to Increase the Northern & Western Region’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Capacity” at a Masterclass in Collaborative Leadership and Regional Development in Sligo in May. He also took part in a discussion panel on accelerating growth with Siobhán Bradley (IPA), Gerard Brady (Ibec) and Brendan McCormack (President, IT Sligo).
  • Dr Breslin chaired a panel in May with Jan Rutherford (leadership and entrepreneurship professor at the University of Colorado Denver), Carmel McGroarty-Mitchell (CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices) and Dave Cunningham (Priviti) on “Leading by Innovating”, part of the InterTradeIreland All-Island Innovation Programme. Dr Breslin also met with 12 visiting MBA students from UC Denver after the event.
  • Dr Breslin gave a Keynote Talk on “TRICS: Teaching Researchers and Innovators How to Create Startups” at the 14th Annual Conference of the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE) in May.
  • He also spoke about “Accelerating Regional Entrepreneurship” to the Enterprise Subgroup of the Atlantic Economic Corridor Taskforce in May.
  • Dr Breslin opened the first 3D Printing Seminar run by the MakerSpace at NUI Galway in May, with talks from Ultimaker and 3DGBIRE.
  • In June, Gabriel Mullarkey facilitated a Design Thinking Workshop at CELT in NUI Galway, with prototyping material provided thanks to LaunchPad.
  • In July, Dr Flynn received his LEANSTACK Certification after taking part in a hands-on workshop led by Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and creator of the Lean Canvas.
  • Dr Flynn ran the second annual TRICS course for 30 PhD students at NUI Galway in August. Guest speakers included Ian Gallivan from the Innovation Office (TTO) who gave much needed insights into pathways to commercialisation.
  • Dr Breslin spoke on RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock in August for a piece with Will Goodbody on the opportunities and challenges for the Irish app economy.
  • Dr Breslin was invited to talk about TechInnovate/AgInnovate to the Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) Team at East Point, Dublin in September.
  • In September, TechInnovate filled 25 places on the new HEA Springboard+ funded MSc in AgInnovation (agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship; Irish IndependentIrish Tech News), and also began a new MSc in TechInnovation, with two scholarships funded by EY.
  • Also in September, Dr Flynn was joint winner of the 4th Innovation & Entrepreneurship Teaching Excellence Award for “Innovate21: An Innovation & Entrepreneurship Teaching Methodology for the Development of 21st Century Skills” at the 13th European Conference on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ECIE) in Portugal. The STARTED Project also won the Runner-Up Poster Award at the Conference.
  • In October, Edel Browne from the MSc in TechInnovation attended the NDTP Health Innovation Spark Summit at RCSI with Health Innovation Hub Ireland.
  • Dr Flynn and Gabriel Mullarkey presented on TechInnovate, AgInnovate and STARTED to visiting BEEHIVE Erasmus+ consortium partners in Galway in October.
  • Dr Breslin gave a presentation on go-to-market strategies and the cost of customer acquisition to SAP.iO Accelerate Teams in Potsdam, Germany in October, where he took part in team mentoring sessions. Dr Breslin also gave an invited talk to the SAP.iO Venture Partners Team on building the Galway startup ecosystem.
  • Gabriel Mullarkey was a workshop speaker at the first Empathy Jam in Galway, and also attended the IRDG Annual Conference in October.
  • Gabriel Mullarkey and Dr Flynn were part of the organising team for the second successful Climathon Galway climate change hackathon in October (Engineers Journal).
  • Dr Breslin gave an online tutorial on “What Can You Do for Your Customer?” to global teams on the BonBillo Social Impact Incubator in November.
  • In November, Dr Breslin met with the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel and Digital Single Market Director Gerard de Graaf at the Startup Europe Summit in Sofia, and talked to them about developing entrepreneurial spirit, skills and spaces for the Galway startup ecosystem.
  • Dr Breslin also joined participants from Universum College Kosovo, Startup Olé Accelerator and University of Warsaw for a discussion panel on “Transforming Universities into Entrepreneurship Engines” at the Summit.
  • About 25 graduates from the HEA Springboard+ funded Postgraduate Diploma in TechInnovation were conferred at NUI Galway in November.
  • Dr Flynn, Arline Broder and Gabriel Mullarkey organised the NEED-Ed symposium at NUI Galway, as part of the Startup Europe University Network’s “Startup Europe Comes to Universities” (SEC2U) week of events in December. Speakers from Blackstone LaunchPad (Natalie Walsh), Health Innovation Hub Ireland (Aisling Dolan) and EY (Paraic Waters, Marie Donnellan) joined others from the TechInnovate team.
  • Finally in December, two participants from our MSc in AgInnovation were selected to participate in Phase 2 of Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers business development programme.

Thank you to all of our sponsors, staff (Arline Broder, Gabriel Mullarkey, Dr Paul Flynn) and students for your support during the year… We are looking forward to an exciting 2019!

Moving All Mail and Other Items from Outlook .PST Files/Subfolders to One .PST File/Folder

I found some useful code by Shirley Zhang from DataNumen recently in my quest to move all messages from multiple Outlook (Windows) .PST files, including all subfolders, into one folder in another open .PST file. Firstly, there’s this code to count all the messages in a .PST file, and secondly there’s this code to batch move all messages in a .PST file to another folder. The counting code is useful for checking if all messages have been successfully moved (alternating between source and target .PST files).

I just created a new .PST file by exporting an empty existing folder in Outlook to a new file, e.g. “All.pst”. Then, I opened up that .PST file and created an empty folder in it called “All”.

After running the move emails code on four or five .PST files, I realised that there were still some items left over, which turned out to be calendar items, contacts, and more. So I just expanded out an If… Then… Else statement in VBA to account for different item types. The last else usually catches the multiple types of meeting items (you could also manually check for all the olWhatever meeting classes). The modified code to move all items is below for reference.

Private Sub GetAllFolders()
    Dim objFolders As Outlook.Folders
    Dim objFolder As Outlook.Folder
    'Get all the folders in a specific PST file
    Set objFolders = Outlook.Application.Session.Folders("localhost").Folders
    For Each objFolder In objFolders
        Call MoveEmails(objFolder)
End Sub
Private Sub MoveEmails(ByVal objFolder As Outlook.Folder)
    Dim objTargetFolder As Outlook.Folder
    Dim objSubFolder As Outlook.Folder
    Dim i As Long
    Dim objAppointment As Outlook.AppointmentItem
    Dim objContact As Outlook.ContactItem
    Dim objDistributionList As Outlook.DistListItem
    Dim objJournal As Outlook.JournalItem
    Dim objMail As Outlook.MailItem
    Dim objNote As Outlook.NoteItem
    Dim objPost As Outlook.PostItem
    Dim objReport As Outlook.ReportItem
    Dim objTask As Outlook.TaskItem
    Dim objMeeting As Outlook.MeetingItem
    'Get the specific destination folder
    'You can change it as per your case
    Set objTargetFolder = Outlook.Application.Session.Folders("All").Folders("All")
    If objTargetFolder Is Nothing Then
       Set objTargetFolder = Outlook.Application.Session.Folders("All").Folders.Add("All")
    End If
    'Move each emails in the folder to the destination folder
    For i = objFolder.Items.Count To 1 Step -1
        If objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olAppointment Then
           Set objAppointment = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objAppointment.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olContact Then
           Set objContact = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objContact.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olDistributionList Then
           Set objDistributionList = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objDistributionList.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olJournal Then
           Set objJournal = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objJournal.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olMail Then
           Set objMail = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           ' If objMail.DownloadState = olFullItem Then
           objMail.Move objTargetFolder
           ' End If
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olNote Then
           Set objNote = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objNote.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olPost Then
           Set objPost = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objPost.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olReport Then
           Set objReport = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objReport.Move objTargetFolder
        ElseIf objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class = olTask Then
           Set objTask = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objTask.Move objTargetFolder
           ' MsgBox objFolder.Items.Item(i).Class, vbInformation + vbOKOnly, "Type"
           Set objMeeting = objFolder.Items.Item(i)
           objMeeting.Move objTargetFolder
        End If
    Next i
    'Process the subfolders in the folder recursively
    If (objFolder.Folders.Count > 0) Then
       For Each objSubFolder In objFolder.Folders
           Call MoveEmails(objSubFolder)
    End If
End Sub

You’ll see a few lines commented out: if you are offline, VBA will complain about header-only (not fully downloaded) mail messages, so uncommenting the olFullItem check will get around that; also, if VBA ends due to an unknown item type, you can uncomment the MsgBox to check what the return code is, then look that up here and add in another object type and else section. Even so, you may notice after the move that some new messages end up in your main account’s Drafts folder (these seem to be some mail drafts with other types of items added as attachments), and you can just drag these over to your aggregate folder in Outlook.

I also changed the count all items code to just focus on one .PST file. You can manually edit the name (currently set to “localhost”). This is the text name (or title) that appears in Outlook’s folders list for the .PST, not the file name, and is usually changed under Properties -> Advanced when right clicking on the folder in Outlook.

Sub CountAllItems_AllOutlookFiles()
    Dim objStores As Outlook.Stores
    Dim objStore As Outlook.Store
    Dim objOutlookFile As Outlook.Folder
    Dim i As Integer
    Dim lItemCount As Long
        Set objOutlookFile = Outlook.Application.Session.Folders("localhost")
        Call ProcessFolders(objOutlookFile.Folders, lItemCount)
        strlist = "All Items in " & Chr(34) & objOutlookFile.Name & Chr(34) & ": " & lItemCount & vbCr & strlist
    'Prompt you of the counts
    MsgBox strlist, vbInformation + vbOKOnly, "Item Count"
End Sub
Sub ProcessFolders(ByVal objCurFolders As Outlook.Folders, lCurCount As Long)
    Dim objFolder As Outlook.Folder
    Dim objSubFolder As Outlook.Folder
    'Count items
    For Each objFolder In objCurFolders
        lCurCount = objFolder.Items.Count + lCurCount
        If objFolder.Folders.Count > 0 Then
           Call ProcessFolders(objFolder.Folders, lCurCount)
        End If
End Sub

My Curriculum Vitæ/Résumé Template for Researchers/Academics using LaTeX

A few years ago, I decided to make the jump from Word to LaTeX for creating my academic research curriculum vitæ (résumé). There were various reasons for this: a more professional-looking style, better control, and being able to more easily include a reusable BiBTeX bibliography, given that many of the popular researcher and academic social networks (ResearchGate,, Mendeley) and our own institutional research information system (IRIS) at NUI Galway also support BiBTeX as an import format.

After some exploration, I decided to use the Long Professional Curriculum Vitae template from, based on résumé templates from RPIs Rensselaer Career Development Center, and which in turn uses the popular res.cls or Resume Document Style by Michael DeCorte from 1989 (updated by Venkat Krishnamurthy in 2001).

I’ve modified this somewhat over the past few years, and thought it was time to share back what I now have with the community so that other academics/researchers don’t have to start from scratch when writing/creating their own CV/résumé headings and layout.

Therefore I’ve committed the LaTeX/BibTeX source files for my Curriculum Vitæ and publications to GitHub which I hope will be of use to others. The link is

For those unfamiliar with it, LaTeX is a document typesetting/preparation system. It’s usually edited as a text file (not WYSIWYG) and then periodically you/it can generate a rendered PDF file. As a result, you have more control over the formatting as you can see exactly what is going on behind the scenes: like you would do with HTML or as WordPerfect used to do way back when (for WP users, you could edit the control codes directly and then see the rendered document in a split-screen view). It has powerful templating, many add-ons/modules, and works with/imports the BiBTeX bibliography format as mentioned.

In the GitHub repository, I have placed the .tex file and .bib files for my CV and publications. For editing and maintaining my CV and associated repository on a Mac, I use a combination of TeXShop, BibDesk, and GitHub Desktop.

Tips: Within TeXShop, you should use the pdflatex option (pdflatexmk) to invoke biber for the BibTeX formatting. You can also generate a HTML file from this CV using pandoc, but you will need to do a bit of manual editing to the .tex file first (change \centerline to \underline, and longtable to tabular). Finally, if you want to link to a PDF file in your GitHub repository from your own website, you can use this URL hack:

Call for TechInnovate Vertical Farming and Connected Health Teams in 2017/2018

Images from Wikimedia Commons and

We are inviting professionals to apply for our 2017/2018 TechInnovate Entrepreneurship Fellowships at NUI Galway.

TechInnovate is a ten-month stipend-supported programme that teaches professionals the entrepreneurial skills required to develop innovation-driven enterprises. This year’s domains are Vertical Farming and Connected Health (the latter is being run in conjunction with our sister programme BioInnovate Ireland).

Two interdisciplinary teams will find unmet needs in these domains, and develop product plans to address a key customer need. TechInnovate’s approach is structured around MIT’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship process. (TechInnovate Director Dr John Breslin adopted this process from MIT where he was selected for the prestigious Entrepreneurship Development Program for CEOs, academics and government leaders.)

You can apply for the TechInnovate Entrepreneurship Fellowships via F6S. For further information, visit the TechInnovate website at or email our team at

“Encouragement needs to be shown for STEM in both men and women”

Science Apprentice, UCD Institute for Discovery

On Monday, I was interviewed by Keith Finnegan on Galway Bay FM about the Science Apprentice book series. I contributed to the fourth book in the series, Computers and Data’, which is out this Saturday, November 19, as part of Science Week.

KF: “You’re really bringing it down to the younger people.”

JB: “I think it’s really important that we encourage science, technology, engineering and maths amongst the younger generation, and the earlier the better to create that awareness because I know certainly when I was growing up, an awareness of, for example, engineering and what that was really only happened at the very later stages of school. These books – the Science Apprentice series of books – are answering a lot of the questions that children have, but also that their parents would have about science and engineering and technology, and how it relates to the world around us, and simple stuff like, how do people travel to space, where does electricity come from, what is big data, all of these things that are part of our lives, and also part of our future lives, and changing a lot, because of these new technologies.”

KF: “They are being distributed in the Irish Independent, and in Tesco stores as well.”

JB: “They’ve been actually for the past two or three weeks part of the Irish Independent on Saturdays, and for the next two or three weeks as well you can pick up a copy. Next week is actually the Computers and Data’ one that I was involved in, so that’s available on Saturday, and the following Saturday it’s one on what’s called the ‘Connected Future’.”

KF: “‘Connected Future’. Is it all changing very quickly John?

JB: “I think we’re pretty aware that everything has changed so much in the past, even, 10 years. So if you think about 2007, which is just nine years ago, the iPhone came out, and that was really the first of the smartphones that now, so many people have. Even in that period of nine years, we’ve seen a huge change in the way people are interacting with communications and with computers, that we now all have these very sophisticated computers in our pockets. So that’s one indication of how quickly things can change, and certainly the indications are it’s going to continue into the future.”

KF: “We’re in Science Week, and it runs indeed for nearly two weeks now at this stage. Again, there’s great interest though in it, and those that started this, including the former Minister Noel Treacy, are to be commended for the great work that they do in keeping this very much alive and very successful.”

JB: “I think it’s important to realise the practicalities of this, in terms of jobs, and future employability for our young people. There’s definitely a shortage of people who have strong science, engineering, technology and maths skills, so the more that we can encourage this during Science Week the better.

“It’s also important to think about the ratio of men and women in science at the moment and technology and engineering, and it’s a well-known fact that there is less women involved in STEM-related education and also jobs for no good reason. I’ve seen various studies where, for example, in terms of programmers, in a blind test, women programmers perform better than men. Certainly, there’s a lot of encouragement that needs to be shown for STEM in both men and women. I’ll give you a couple of interesting stories.

“One of the first women programmers in the world was actually from the West of Ireland, she was from Donegal, Kay McNulty. She worked on a computer called the ENIAC, which was the world’s first programmable computer. She would have been part of that first team. We have some great examples of very famous Irish people – both men and women – who’ve done very well in the world of science, technology and engineering.

“Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at an event in Dublin where Susan McKenna-Lawlor, who is an Irish scientist, was honoured for her pioneering work in the area of space travel. We have some great standard bearers for STEM in Ireland, and I think on both sides, for men and women, we need to promote those and again encourage numbers from young people into our courses.”

KF: “The beauty of studying what we’re talking about today, be it, if they go into engineering, if they go into whatever field that they go into, be it science or engineering or whatever, they’re automatically employable.”

JB: “Absolutely, there’s great opportunities for jobs, if I think of some of the companies around Galway, for example, we’ve got lots of big names like Valeo, which is employing hundreds of people out in Tuam, we have Intel down in Shannon, not too far away from us in Galway, we have SAP, HP Enterprise, Avaya, Cisco, there’s lots of big names there. But we also have our own up-and-coming Irish companies like PlanNet21, and CBE, which is a company in Mayo doing stuff in the checkout systems space. So we have a lot of really interesting companies and they are really crying out for people to join them. For example, I’m in the Engineering Department in the College and all of our graduates are snapped up straightaway.”

The Science Apprentice books are free to collect with the Irish Independent in Tesco stores every Saturday until November 26.

Galway Scientist Contributes to New Children’s Book Series

Science Apprentice, UCD Institute for Discovery

A Galway researcher is hoping a new series of children’s books will encourage more young people to consider a career in science and technology.

NUI Galway lecturer Dr John Breslin is one of a number of high-profile scientists from Ireland who have come together to produce a series of five fun books to encourage children to explore science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Breslin, who co-founded and, contributed to the fourth book in the series, Computers and Data, which is out this Saturday, November 19, as part of Science Week.

In the weekly series, free with the Irish Independent, readers are brought on an interactive journey that includes space, food and health, energy and resources, computers and data, and connected future.

“The Science Apprentice book series is a great resource for teachers interested in inquiry-based approaches to STEM teaching and learning,” says Dr Breslin.

“Coming out in Science Week, the Computers and Data book will help children understand the technology behind some of their favourite computer games and devices, as well as some big ideas in maths, like cryptography and artificial intelligence.

“These books are also a great way for parents to get their children interested in science and technology as a career, reinforcing the message that there is no limit to what they can become.”

The Science Apprentice book series has been produced by University College Dublin and partners, supported by the Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme and the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions.

The Science Apprentice books are free to collect with the Irish Independent in Tesco stores every Saturday until November 26.

Web Archive Ontology (SIOC+CDM)

Ontology Prototype

We (John G. Breslin and Guangyuan Piao, Unit for Social Semantics, Insight Centre for Data Analytics, NUI Galway) have created a prototype ontology for web archives based on two existing ontologies: Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities (SIOC) and the Common Data Model (CDM).


Figure 1: Initial Prototype of Web Archive Ontology, Linking to SIOC and CDM

In Figure 1, we give an initial prototype for a general web archive ontology, linked to concepts in the CDM, but allowing flexibility in terms of archiving works, media, web pages, etc. through the “Item” concept. Items are versioned and linked to each other, as well as to concepts appearing in the archived items themselves.

We have not shown the full CDM for ease of display in this document, but rather some of the more commonly used concepts. We can also map to other vocabulary terms shown in the last column of Table 1 below; some mappings and reused terms are shown in Figure 1.

Essentially, the top part of the model differentiates between the archive / storage mechanism for an item in an area (Container) on a website (Site), i.e. where it originally came from , who made it, when it was created / modified, when it was archived, the content stream, etc., and on the bottom, what the item actually is (for example, in terms of CDM, the single exemplar of the manifestation of an expression of a work).

Also, the agents who make the item and the work may differ (e.g. a bot may generate a HTML copy of a PDF publication written by Ms. Smith).

Relevant Public Ontologies

In Table 1, we list some relevant public ontologies and terms of interest. Some terms can be reused, and others can be mapped to for interoperability purposes.

Ontology Name Overview Why relevant? What terms are useful?
FRBR For describing functional requirements for bibliographic records. To describe bibliographic records.

FRBRoo Express the conceptualisation of FRBR with an object-oriented methodology instead of the entity-relationship methodology, as an alternative. In general, FRBRoo “inherits” all concepts of CIDOC-CRM and harmonises with it.




BIBFrame For describing bibliographic descriptions, both on the Web and in the broader networked world. To represent and exchange bibliographic data.



EDM The Europeana Data Model models data in and supports functionality for Europeana, an internet portal that acts as an interface to millions of books, paintings, films, museum objects and archival records that have been digitised throughout Europe. Complements FRBRoo with additional properties and classes.








For describing the implicit and explicit concepts and relationships used in the cultural heritage domain. To describe cultural heritage information.


EAC-CPF Encoded Archival Context for Corporate Bodies, Persons and Families is used for encoding the names of creators of archival materials and related information. Used closely in association with EAD to provide a formal method for recording the descriptions of record creators.


EU PO CDM Ontology based on the FRBR model, for describing the relationships between resource types managed by the EU Publications Office and their views, according to the FRBR model. To describe records.





OAI-ORE Defines standards for the description and exchange of aggregations of Web resources. To describe relationships among resources (also used in EDM).


EAD Standard used for hierarchical descriptions of archival records. Terms are designed to describe archival records.





WGS84 Geo For describing information about spatially located things. Terms can be used with the Place ontology for describing place information.

Media For describing media resources on the Web. To describe media contents for web archiving.


Places For describing places of geographic interest. To describe place information for events, etc.


Event For describing events. To describe specific event in content. Also can be used for representing events at an administrative level.




SKOS A common data model for sharing and linking knowledge organisation systems. To capture similarities among ontologies and makes the relationships explicit.





SIOC For describing social content. Terms are general enough to be used for web archiving.








Dublin Core Provide a metadata vocabulary of “core” properties that is able to provide basic descriptive information about any kind of resource. Fundamental terms used with other ontologies.





LOC METS Profile The Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) is a metadata standard for encoding descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata regarding objects within a digital library. The METS profile expresses the requirements that a METS document must satisfy. To describe and organise the components of a digital object.


DCAT and DCAT-AP A specification based on the Data Catalogue vocabulary (DCAT) for describing public sector datasets in Europe. Its basic use case is to enable a cross-data portal search for data sets and make public sector data better searchable across borders and sectors. Enable the exchange of description metadata between data portals.




Formex A format for the exchange of data between the Publication Office and its contractors. In particular (but not only), it defines the logical markup for documents, which are published in the different series of the Official Journal of the European Union. Useful for annotating archived items as well for exchange purposes.



ODP Ontology describing the metadata vocabulary for the Open Data Portal of the European Union. To describe dataset portals.



LOC PREMIS Used to describe preservation metadata. Applicable to archives.


VIAF Virtual International Authority File is an international service designed to provide convenient access to the world’s major name authority files (lists of names of people, organisations, places, etc. used by libraries). Enables switching of the displayed form of names to the preferred language of a web user. Useful for linking to name authority files and helping to serve different language communities in Europe.



Table 1: Relevant Ontologies and Terms