2015 – Present
Chair, Irish Research Council (IRC)
Since September 2015, I have served as Chair of the Irish Research Council, a body that awards basic frontier research funding on the basis of excellence across 100 academic disciplines, from archaeology to zoology. Currently the Irish Research Council funds c 1,400 early career researchers and advises government on a range of research-related policy issues. The Council was the first funding agency in Ireland to publish a gender strategy and introduce gender-blind assessment.
As Chair, I have advocated for the creation of a more balanced research ecosystem in Ireland and for additional funding for basic frontier research for the past five years. The launch of the Laureate Awards represents a critical departure in achieving this, as do successful efforts to secure a living stipend/salary for our early career researchers. The Irish Research Council has been actively working with government and other funders across Ireland and the UK to devise a Brexit strategy that looks North-South as well as West-East while mitigating risks and maximising opportunities. We are now working with the new Department of Higher and Further Education, Research, Innovation and Science and other bodies, especially the Royal Irish Academy, to ensure that research informs public policy.
2015 – 2020
Director, Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
I was a founding member of the Trinity Long Room Hub in 2008, working with a small group of colleagues to develop the concept and secure funding for the physical building (€10.78M), human infrastructure, and related initiatives.
As Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub from 2015 to 2020, I provided strategic leadership; built and nurtured a strong community drawing on over 20 arts and humanities disciplines and the Library of Trinity College Dublin, particularly amongst early career researchers; advocated for the relevance of arts and humanities research to society today by driving the development of popular public humanities initiatives and innovative research programmes; developed strategic collaborations, raised the institute’s international profile and attracted distinguished visiting research fellows, and worked to ensure financial sustainability through philanthropic fundraising and sponsorship.
2011 – 2014
Vice-President for Global Relations
As the founding Vice President for Global Relations (2011–14) I devised Trinity’s ‘Global Relations Strategy’ and developed the business plan that underpinned it. In this role I transformed how we approach international engagement and recruitment across all disciplines. I then hired and led a high-performing team that delivered the strategy in Dublin, set up our offices in New York, New Delhi and Shanghai, and supported the establishment of a niche campus in Singapore.
Working closely with colleagues in every Faculty, School, and Department afforded me important insights into how decisions are made and implemented at all levels in Trinity, as well as on the national and international stages. As Vice President for Global Relations, I also developed excellent working relationships with researchers in some of the most prestigious universities across the world, with the leaders of enterprise, with policymakers and the heads of cultural organisations, with colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and in agencies that work for Ireland abroad, and with Trinity alumni and friends, whom I reached out to wherever I travelled.
Co-Chair, Royal Irish Academy’s Brexit Taskforce
Research and education know no national boundaries. Serving as powerful integrators, they have played an important part in the peace processes, and have been fundamental to Ireland’s continued prosperity and competitiveness in Europe and globally.
As co-chair of the Royal Irish Academy’s Brexit Taskforce, , I am part of a group of academics from across Ireland assessing the impact that Brexit could have on research and education on the island.
Leadership in a Time of Crisis
When Trinity College Dublin closed its physical campus in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis, my first concern was our community of researchers. I wanted to ensure that the nurturing research environment we provided to 44 early career researchers every year, and to many more in our partner Schools, could help sustain them through these difficult times. Under my leadership, we continued to provide these supports, and our quick adaption to the online space in the initial lockdown phase proved that we could inspire and stimulate our community no matter what the challenge.
I also encouraged colleagues in Trinity’s Arts and Humanities and across the disciplines to highlight how the Covid-19 virus has challenged diverse communities, across Ireland and the world, and impacted those most vulnerable. In addition to establishing a new weekly blog, we organised a six-part online discussion series titled ‘Rethinking Democracy in an Age of Pandemic’ collaboration with the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University looking at democracy and the pandemic, published an online free curriculum as part of the Crises of Democracy project, and launched the EU-funded ‘Human+’ project.