Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A brief hiatus

The Sciblorg will be on a brief hiatus from Tuesday 24th June to Tuesday 1st July.

A flurry of activity will follow.

Friday, 20 June 2008

STFC to be reviewed

Research fortnight reports that the STFC (Science and Technologies Facilities Council) will commission a comprehensive review of its operation by September. This move comes as a response to criticism from MPs who believe the council has been mismanaged.

However, the Government also told MPs that the criticisms of the peer review system were '"unhelpful and damaging"'. Phil Wilis, Liberal MP for Harrogate is quoted as saying, '"When you read this response, it is very clear from the underlying language that the department is not happy and that it feels it should not have been put in this position"'.

Read more from the BBC

Can ethics be independent?

In the latest edition of Science in Parliament, The Baroness Warnock and Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool present conflicting views on the formation of a National Human Bioethics Commission. While Warnock argues that ‘such a body is unnecessary, and would be both expensive and possibly damaging in its effects’ and could conflict with existing bodies, HFEA and the Nuffield Council for Bioethics. She recognises that those in favour of establishing a commission, ‘suggest that the Nuffield Council, being funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, is necessarily biased toward science. They advocate the new body in the belief that religion and a morality deprived from religion would be better represented on it.’

These views are echoed by Lord Alton who states that the new Commission should be separate and independent from particular government departments, ‘.. it would be a way of redressing a debate too frequently dominated by vested interests or by small elites who for two decades have enjoyed free reign in shaping the bioethics agenda.’

Monday, 16 June 2008

Lab Swap

THES reports on the launch of the Newton International Fellowships which will 'fund the most promising early-stage researchers to undertake postdoctoral research at UK universities with the aim of helping UK research groups establish long-term international collaborations. There are separate postdoctoral fellowships for UK nationals.'

The programme is funded by the Royal Society, the British Academy and the Royal Academy of Engineering with the support of Research Councils UK.

Read the THES article in full

CRUK announces crack teams

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has announced a new project aimed at tackling some of cancer's biggest scientific challenges. The charity plans to hand pick crack teams of up to five world class scientists, who will be joined by some of the world's foremost pharmaceutical companies to work on emerging fields to tackle specific questions in cancer research.

Each group of researchers will form a limited company and will receive up to £500,000 over two years. A British-based team has been selected for the first project and further research projects are planned for 2009 and 2010.

Cancer Research UK Press Release

Virtual science engagement

DIUS has launched a virtual centre for public dialogue in science. The Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Innovation aims to help public bodies understand public concerns on controversial issues. The centre's steering group is led by Kathy Sykes, professor of sciences and society at the University of Bristol whilst the public champion of the centre is Lord Winston.

Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Innovation

FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award 2009

The European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS) have announced the second call for nominations for the FEBS/EMBO Women in Science Award. The aim of this award is to highlight the major contributions being made by female life scientists to European research and to present inspiring role models for future generations of women in science.

Nominees should be excellent women scientists working in Europe who have made outstanding contributions to life sciences research in the last 5 years and significantly advanced our understanding of a particular discipline. Their research can be in any area of the life sciences including agricultural and biomedical research.

The winner will be honoured at the annual FEBS Congress, where she will receive an award of 10,000 EUR and present a special plenary lecture. The first winner is Naama Barkai of the Weizman Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, recognized for her outstanding contributions to the field of systems biology and the mathematical modelling of biological systems. The award will be made on 2 July at the 2008 FEBS Congress in Athens, Greece.

For details of the nomination procedure, please visit:

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The beginning of the end for science A-levels?

Newcastle University has announced plans which will allow students onto science degree courses without A-levels. A-levels will be replaced by degree-level courses with the Open University, allowing students to become used to the university style of modular learning. It is hoped that this option will combat the perception that science subjects are too hard, which results in many talented students dropping science and maths subjects in the sixth-form. At present 60 places at the university are being set aside for students who opt for this approach.

'Heather Finlayson, dean of undergraduate studies at Newcastle, said: "This new route is not an easy option – it's simply a different way of working. Our overall aim is to try to increase the number of high quality science students who would benefit from a university education and we believe this is one way to do that."'

Read the full article from the Independent