Friday, 30 January 2009

Science Minister calls for focus

THES reports that Science Minister, Lord Drayson, has said that ‘the UK should narrow its research effort to key areas that boost the economy and deliver economic benefits’ identifying life sciences and earth sciences as examples of two such areas.

Lord Drayson acknowledges that this may call unrest as a concentration of efforts in one area will come at the expense of others. Before the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Skills and Science Select Committee this week, Lord Drayson said “I truly believe that we could be the world’s best at life sciences if we put our minds to it.”

Read the THES article in full.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Science: So what? So Everything

A new Government campaign has been launched to highlight the vital role science plays in the wellbeing and prosperity of Britain. "In the UK, we don’t value science as much as we should. It lives beneath the surface of everything we touch and taste. It is the key to our prosperity, one of the driving forces of our economy, and it creates thousands of jobs that keep Britain at the leading edge." The website contains engaging examples of how science affects our day to day lives, through news stories, twitter and short videos.

Visit the 'Science: So What?' website.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The future of higher education

DIUS is currently developing a framework policy for Higher Education for the next ten to fifteen years. In developing this policy, a number of independent individuals and organisations were asked to think about the long-term challenges facing the sector. This has resulted in a number of reports on issues such as 'Research Careers', 'Intellectual Property and research benefits' and 'Understanding Higher Education Institutional Performance'. These reports are available to comment on through the website. Don't miss this important opportunity to make your opinion heard as the policy develops.

Visit the DIUS website and get involved.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Biotechnology YES

The BBSRC Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs (YES) competition is held each year and is now in its 13th year. It aims to help the UK's early career bioscientists gain the skills and contacts needed to turn research into commercial reality. The video below gives a good overview of the 2008 competition (held in December) and reveals the winners.

Visit the Biotechnology YES website.


As the integration of the Biosciences Federation and the Institute of Biology progresses, a new blog has been set up to enable members of those organisations to have their say on the new draft vision document. Comments will be discussed by the interim council. It is hoped that this integration will create a leading organisation for biology in the UK.

Visit the new blog and have your say.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Show me the money

China has announced plans to offer "outstanding" foreign scientists more research funding than they were receiving at home, in an attempt to bolster the Country's science base. It is hoped that the two projects coordinated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS); 'Specially Hired Foreign Research Fellows' and 'Youth Foreign Scientist Project' will introduce more than 200 foreign research in total every year.

The plan has been welcomed with Yan Denghuam associate professor at the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower quoted as saying, "Foreign scientists' ideas and training can surely rub off on Chinese scientists".

Read the SciDev article in full

Friday, 23 January 2009

DIUS: Committee Verdict

The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee (chaired by Mr Phil Willis MP) have published their DIUS Departmental Report 2008 (Third Report of Session 2008-09).

The report suggests that communication within the department needs to be improved, moving away from jargon towards an increased level of transparency with ‘independently verified statistics’. The role of innovation in terms of how it is used within the department and how it is supported by the department was also scrutinised, with the report calling for ‘a clear statement from DIUS explaining how it is going to manage innovation and financial risk’.

The work of the new Government Chief Scientific Adviser was also reviewed, noting a change in approach in comparison with his predecessor. While some of the changes he is making (such as the speeding up of departmental science reviews) are welcomed, there are concerns that his ‘collegiate approach and desire to work within the Whitehall machine’ may muted the ‘customary, strong public voice from the Government Chief Scientific Adviser’.

Read the report in full online.

Mainstream QR funding quandary

Research Fortnight reports that HEFCE and Ministers face a tough decision on how to allocate the Mainstream QR funding of more than £900 million following the 2008 RAE.

In the 2008 RAE many universities with smaller volumes of research have succeeded in getting a relatively high percentage of their staff into categories 4* and 3*. Research Fortnight uses the University of Wolverhampton as an example: in 2001 the history department was rated 4 with everything else rated 3a or lower. However, in the 2008 RAE it submitted 151 staff in total and 30 per cent were categorised as 4* or 3*.

Success of this kind threatens to divert money from traditional recipients of Mainstream QR. The annual grant letter to HEFCE from DIUS setting out guidance is due this week. The HEFCE allocation announcement will be made on Thursday March 5

Research Fortnight (subscription required)

Friday, 2 January 2009

Happy New Year!

The Sciblorg will take a brief hiatus until January 19th 2009.
We'd like to wish everyone a very happy new year!