Thursday, 30 April 2009

Introducing the newly formed Office for the Life Sciences

The Office for the Life Sciences (OLS) will work with industry to make further improvements in the operating environment for the pharmaceutical, medical biotechnology, and healthcare technology industries in the UK, culminating in the publication of a Life Sciences Industrial Strategy this summer.

The OLS has said that it is, 'pleased with a set of measures put forward in last week's Budget which will have a positive influence on the operating environment for life sciences companies and which recognise the importance of supporting the life sciences industry as a key strategic sector of the future' in a DIUS announcement.

The announcement goes on to quote Lord Drayson, who leads the work of the OLS who says, "It is an important achievement for the newly formed Office for Life Sciences that the Budget included a commitment to explore the tax treatment of Intellectual property to enhance the competitiveness of the UK."

Women in Science Conference

European conference: Changing research landscapes to make the most of human potential –10 years of activities in women and science, and BEYOND

14-15 May 2009, Prague

The conference will focus on how gender management enters into the modernisation process that is currently being carried out at universities and research institutions in many countries. Modernisation is generally focused on some critical issues such as: autonomy, funding, accountability, partnership with businesses, quality of research, intellectual property rights,open access to research results, contribution to innovation, community engagement, etc. Human resources, however, are often not included as one of the main issues – and gender issues are rarely considered. However, no true modernisation of universities and research institutions can take place if the social relationships governing these remain based on and ruled by stereotypes – i.e. if excellence is biased or if innovative-ness is not promoted through diverse thinking.

Gender-bias is often the source of the more-ingrained stereotypes: tackling it in the management of universities and research institutions could provide the basis for radical change in other fields."

Via European Platform of Women Scientists.
Find out more about the conference.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Hopes of £1 billion funding increase quashed

After weeks of hope that the UK scientific sector would see a funding boost, similar to that seen in the US, Darling's budget has come as a huge disappointment. The new budget does not contain any new money for places or research, although an existing commitment to ring-fence the science budget remains, an article in THES reports.

In a £400 million savings package, universities will be required to compete for grants. 'The £400 million in efficiency savings in further and higher education is expected to be found through the "use of benchmarking data, greater contestability, particularly in commissioning new programmes and services; reduced expenditure through lower than expected rates of inflation and the strategic reprioritisation and rephasing of programmes".'

Read the THES article in full.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

UK’s leading biology organisations agree to unification

Members of the UK’s two leading biology organisations, the Institute of Biology (IoB) and the Biosciences Federation (BSF), have voted overwhelmingly in favour of unification to form a single organisation, the Society of Biology. This positive development takes the IoB and BSF a step closer to the creation of an organisation that combines the expertise of the learned societies and other biology organisations with the professional skills of the IoB and its individual members. The Biochemical Society is a member of the Biosciences Federation.

Read the press release in full.

Biochemical Society Receives £113,317 from Monsanto Fund

The Biochemical Society today announced it has received £113,317 from the Monsanto Fund, a private foundation and the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, to continue funding the production of new resources for secondary school science.

The Society's education team have drawn on their extensive links with leading scientists and teachers in the development of these “SciberBrain” resources. The website will feature free activities, games and animated slideshows that can be used online or in the classroom to inspire young people about developments in modern bioscience. Topics such as stem cell research, vaccinations and genetically modified organisms will be explored.

Monday, 20 April 2009

SCORE welcomes science diploma delay

The Science Community Partnership Representing Education (SCORE) has welcomed the decision to delay the introduction of the Science Diploma at Level 3.

Sir Alan Wilson, the Chair of SCORE is quoted as saying, "The decision to delay for a year the launch of the Science Diploma at Level 3 is one that we have been pressing for over a considerable period of time and we are delighted to see Government recognise the need for further work. This additional development time can now be used to address a number of key issues to ensure that the Science Diploma becomes a successful qualification."

Issues which SCORE hopes to address include:

  • How teaching, learning and assessment within the Science Diploma can be focussed towards applied sciences
  • The development of customised qualifications to supplement to the principal learning of the diploma to prepare students for opportunities in the sciences within both Higher Education and employment

Read the Royal Society press release in full.
Visit the SCORE website.

HUBS 2009

The Heads of University Bioscience Departments (HUBS) group has announced the programme for the Spring 2009 meeting which will take place between 4-5 May at Weetwood Hall, Leeds. The meetings will address the topic, 'Challenges to Maintaining Standards' and sessions will be held on, 'Key Scientific Skills', 'Practical Work and Final Year Projects' and 'Assessment and Feedback, Roles of External Examiners and Maintaining Academic Excellence'.

View the full meeting programme and register online.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Call for additional £2bn in funding

The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) and a group of research-based universities led by Sir Roy Anderson, rector of Imperial College London are calling for as much as £2bn in additional funding in the budget, reports the Financial Times.

It is envisioned that the money would be spent through two streams, the first would be allocated to the seven research councils to support research and postgraduate training. The second 'would be used to help finance small high-tech companies and start ups' which are suffering from a long-term shortage of early-stage venture capital funding.

David Delpy, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is quoted as saying, "The big risk now is that, with the US planning to invest $18bn in research grants and $3.5bn in scientific infrastructure, we could lose what we have built up over the past decade."

Royal Society launches inquiry: 'Fruits of Curiosity'

The Royal Society has launched an 11 month enquiry, 'The Fruits of Curiosity: science, innovation and future sources of wealth', which will examine the role that science will play in equipping Britain to meet the economic, social and environmental challenges of the next fifty years. The enquiry will look beyond the current 10-Year Investment Framework.

Vice President of the Royal Society, Sir Martin Taylor, will lead the inquiry and at the launch said, "We have to seize this opportunity to reshape our economy, based on science and innovation... Our study will lay the foundations for a new approach to science, innovation and the creation of wealth. We are particularly keen to explore how policies for science and innovation can be better aligned with the transition to a low-carbon economy."

Biochemical Society President to become Chair of BBSRC Council?

Biochemical Society President Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS, currently Sir William Dunn Professor and Head of School of Biological Sciences at Cambridge University, has been selected as the preferred candidate to become Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Yesterday (Monday 6 April), Innovation Universities and Skills Secretary, John Denham invited the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee to hold pre-appointment hearings and to report on Professor Blundell’s and Dr Gillespie’s suitability for these posts. This in line with proposals announced last year to increase democratic scrutiny of key public appointments.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Is Labour undermining Haldane principle?

Adam Afriyie, the Shadow Science Minister, ahead of a speech to science leaders at the Royal Society said 'the Government should stop pretending that the Haldane principle "stood affected" as ministers tried to use science to drive the economy', reports THES.

Mr Afriyie is quoted as saying, "It is... right that the Government sets the overall strategic priorities... but I am concerned that it may be nudging or picking particular projects within that".

The Haldane principle in British research policy is the idea that decisions about what to spend research funds on should be made by researchers rather than politicians.

Scottish universities face funding cuts

In the wake of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), 'nearly a third of Scotland's universities will see their total funding cut in real terms for 2009-10' reports the THES.

In comparison with England which saw a 4 per cent cash increase and a 2 per cent real-terms rise when inflation was included, in Scotland, total funding increased 3.4 per cent in cash terms, equating to 1.4 per cent including inflation. This news comes after the Scottish Funding Council announced how the £1.14 billion allocated by the Scottish Government would be spread across 20 universities in 2009-10.

Stirling and Strathclyde have seen the biggest decrease in funding with falls of 1.6 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively. This is 'despite receiving special moderation funding funding of £1.5 million and £1.3 million to soften the cuts' reports THES. The University of Dundee, Queen Margaret University and Glasgow Caledonian University have all seen below-inflation rises.

Within these allocation to Universities, some science areas fared better than others: Community-based medicine rose 102 per cent, physical sciences rose 31.5 per cent, hospital and laboratory medicine rose 30 per cent, while funding for biological sciences fell 19 per cent.

Read the THES article in full.