Category Archives: Uncategorized

Astérix and the Historical Interpretation

Introduction

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]

1959-1968

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.

1969-1978

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.

1979-1988

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.”

“Yes…

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

1989-1998

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].

1999-2008

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].

2008-Present

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

  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. https://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/politique/le-manifeste-des-dix_492498.html  
  2. [Chandrasekharan and Dippold, -] Sudhakar Thaths Chandrasekharan and Ron Dippold, “Astérix Annotations” website, retrieved 4th May 2021. http://asterix.openscroll.org/ 
  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. https://www.france24.com/en/20151013-france-new-comic-asterix-missing-scroll-hit-stores-october 
  5. [Kalita, 2014] Jyotishman Kalita, “Historicising Astérix and Obelix: A Case for Graphic Literature”, Delhi University, 2014. http://ijellh.com/papers/2014/November/16-142-150-november-2014.pdf 
  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. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00199963/document
  7. [Matson, 2012] John Matson, “When-if Ever-Was Cycling Drug-Free?” Scientific American, 2012. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/when-if-ever-was-cycling-drug-free 
  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. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/oct/24/meet-adrenaline-asterix-gets-first-female-hero-in-60-year-history 
  10. [Rivière, -] Stéphane Rivière, “Astérix Le Gaulois” website, retrieved 4th May 2021. http://www.mage.fst.uha.fr/asterix/
  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:// ninthartform.blogspot.com/2017/09/asterix-and-banquet-by-rene-goscinny.html 
  12. [Schofield, 2009] Hugh Schofield, “Should Astérix Hang Up His Sword?”, BBC News, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8319196.stm 
  13. [Uderzo, 1980], “Astérix and the Great Divide”, 1980. https://archive.org/details/25AstérixAndTheGreatDivide_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. https://www.jstor.org/stable/393846?seq=1 
  16. [Wikipedia Doping Olympic, -] Wikipedia, “Doping at the Olympic Games” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_at_the_Olympic_Games
  17. [Wikipedia Doping Tour, -] Wikipedia, “Doping at the Tour de France” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doping_at_the_Tour_de_France 
  18. [Wikipedia Dumont, -] Wikipedia, “René Dumont” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Dumont 
  19. [Wikipedia Feminism France, -] Wikipedia, “Feminism in France” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism_in_France 
  20. [Wikipedia Goscinny, -] Wikipedia, “René Goscinny” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Goscinny 
  21. [Wikipedia Lebreton, -] Wikipédia (en français), “Philippe Lebreton” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Lebreton 
  22. [Wikipedia Uderzo, -] Wikipedia, “Albert Uderzo” article, retrieved 4th May 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Uderzo 

Professorships: Academic Trajectory and Tips for Applicants

A photo I took of the solar eclipse in 2015, available from https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=220466

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 academicpositions.com: “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: http://bresl.in/cv
  • 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!

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, Academia.edu, 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 latextemplates.com, 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 https://github.com/johnbreslin/cv

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: https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=https://github.com/johnbreslin/cv/raw/master/Curriculum_Vitae.pdf

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

Images from Wikimedia Commons and PublicDomainPictures.net

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 www.techninnovate.org or email our team at info@techinnovate.org.

“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 Boards.ie and Adverts.ie, 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.

http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/88736/galway-scientist-contributes-to-new-childrens-book-series

Government Linked Data Goes With George Thomas

Creative Commons image of the mural in Peru’s Temple of the Sun is from https://www.flickr.com/photos/anntatti/3012766802/.

When writing about a person’s significant achievements, it would be so much better if the person themselves could hear the good things you were saying about them. Unfortunately, the person I am writing about, George Thomas, passed away last week after a long battle with cancer. However, I think it is important to note the huge impact that George had on Government Linked Data, Linked Open Data in general, and on his friends and colleagues in the Semantic Web space. If there’s one name that Government Linked Data ‘goes with’, it would be George Thomas.

Although I only physically met George a handful of times, I would count him as one of those who influenced me the most – through his visionary ideas, his practical nature, his inspiring talks at conferences like SemTechBiz, and his willingness to build bridges between people, communities, and of course data.

For those who may not have met him, George worked in the US Government for the past 12 years – most recently as an enterprise architect in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – and previously he held Chief Architect/CTO roles in other agencies and various private companies.

I first came across George when he was Chief Architect at the CIO’s office in the US General Services Administration. He had given a presentation about how Semantic Web technologies similar to SIOC could potentially be used to “track the dollar instead of the person” on Recovery.gov. Later on, DERI’s Owen Sacco and I collaborated with George on a system to create and enforce fine-grained access control policies (using PPO/PPM) for the HHS’s Government Linked Data on IT investments and assets stored in multiple sources. (George also sung DERI’s praises in a blog post on Data.gov – “Linked Data Goes With DERI” – echoed in this article’s title.)

George Thomas speaking in a video about Healthdata.gov. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

George was the Chief Architect for Healthdata.gov (video), the ‘one-stop shop’ for healthcare-related Government Linked Data from the US Government; I remember him organising some exciting metadata and sign-on challenges around the service in 2012. He also worked with Jim Hendler, Jeanne Holm, Chris Musialek and many others on transforming the Open Government Data (OGD) from Data.gov – the world’s largest OGD-sharing website – to Linked Open Government Data.

George held a wide range of working group leadership roles in cross-agency collaborations and standards bodies: Semantic Web and Linked Data Lead for the Data.gov Program Management Office; Co-Chair of the Federal CIO Council Architecture and Infrastructure Committee (AIC) Services Subcommittee; Invited Expert in the W3C eGovernment Interest Group and Co-Chair of the W3C Government Linked Data Working Group; and Steering Committee Member of the Object Management Group (OMG) Government Domain Task Force.

He also taught Service Oriented Architecture as a faculty instructor at the Graduate School, and I’ve heard many say that George was a born teacher outside of the classroom: giving informal on-the-fly tutorials with ease and explaining Semantic Web and Linked Data concepts in ways that just made sense.

In addition to all of the above, George was a musician into performance works – having studied computer music at the JHU Peabody Conservatory; a UMBC graduate; a computer graphics enthusiast; a strong supporter of open source technologies and net neutrality; a world traveller, to Peru, India and elsewhere; and a fan of fusion cuisine (he brought me to Zengo in DC’s Chinatown to try it out). I’m sure there’s lots more about George that you can share in the comments…

If there are any data integration challenges in the heavens or the cloud or wherever George has uploaded to, they have the right person now.

Our thoughts go to George’s wife Suzanne and family at this difficult time.

This article was originally posted on SemanticWeb.com.