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Making it count

Three months into his role as chief scientific adviser at Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Ian Young tells Anna McKie how the small nation plans to make an impact on a global scale.

Ian Young has a clear goal: he wants to help researchers in Northern Ireland show that they can punch above their weight. The country is the smallest nation in the UK and is geographically separated from it, and from continental Europe, by an expanse of sea. This, he says, means Northern Ireland has more to prove.

But, Young continues, the country’s size means that it has to focus on being excellent in a smaller number of specific fields. “We can’t have world-class research across the full breadth of work that is carried out,” he says. “But in our key areas we want to be recognised at a global level, such as our contributions to a superior health system.” When he offers some examples, the list isn’t short: cancer research, respiratory medicine, vision science, public health and nutrition. “We lead major, significant research programmes in all these areas.”

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