Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Policy Lunchbox: Nick Dusic

Science policy professionals met in London today for the first 'Policy Lunchbox' seminar, organised by the Biochemical and the British Ecological Societies. Nick Dusic, Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), led a discussion on 'How to engage with the opposition and with manifesto development in the run up to the 2010 election?'

CaSE has canvassed major and minor political parties alike in the run up to the European Elections on 4 June, asking them to provide details of their science and technology policies. The organisation plan to do the same over the next few months, trying to ensure that science, engineering and technology are a key part of each party's manifesto in the run-up to the general election expected in spring 2010.

Nick urged the learned societies and academies represented around the table to work together to influence the development of party manifestos, creating a clear statement about what science and technology policy should aim to deliver over the coming years. The election offers an opportunity to engage new people with science policy: and one which the scientific community can seize adequately only by working together.

Hustings featuring the spokespeople for the major political parties could offer one means for the scientific community to openly question politicians about their parties' policies on research and development, science education and skills needs. Nick singled out the 'Science '08'' debate, called for by the science academies and universities in America during the US Presidential Election, as an effective way to raise the profile of science, engineering and technology and to encourage candidates to make their positions clear.

Overall, Nick encouraged the science community to work together - and work with CaSE - to make sure that whichever party is called on to form a new Government in 2010 demonstrates a strong commitment to science, engineering and technology.

Policy Lunchbox is an informal network of individuals working in science policy. Find out more about the network and future events we have planned.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Emily Thornberry endorses the Society's work on women in science

After meeting with the Society's Parliamentary and Policy Officer Rebecca Smith, Emily Thornberry MP has agreed to endorse the Society's work on the issues facing women in science.

Find out more about the Society's work on women in science.
Emily Thornberry MP website

Monday, 18 May 2009

Wanted: Plumber to fix leaky pipeline of women in science

Janez Potočnik, the European Commissioner for Science and Research gave a speech entitled 'Women and Science: 10 years of fixing the leaky pipe' at the 'Changing Research Landscapes to make the most of human potential – 10 years of EU activities in 'Women and Science' and beyond' conference on 14 May 2008 in Prague.

In his speech Janez Potočnik reflects on the work of the European Commission in addressing the issue of the leaky pipeline and the need for a plumber. He stresses the importance of enthusing children's enthusiasm for science at an early age through means such as 'enquiry-based education'. Stakeholders such as teachers, parents, research managers and research-funding agencies have important roles to play in raising awareness. A new report, which was launched at the conference, looks at the role of research funding agencies as 'part of a systematic effort to map the European research funding landscape from a gender perspective.'

Janez Potočnik calls for proper data upon which grounded and sensible targets can be developed, highlighting the Commissions 'She Figures' reports which bring together data from all Member States. In developing this important resource further, harmonisation of definitions e.g. "academics" is needed.

In looking forward to the future of the Commission's work in this area Potočnik said, "Women and female scientists do not need favours or special conditions. What they need, what you need, is a fair, just and trustworthy environment and consistent policies.

Read Janez Potočnik's speech in full.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Race for the Prize

In an essay which was recently shortlisted for the BSCB's Writing Competition and appeared on the LabLit website, cancer researcher Alexis Barr discusses whether competition drives science forward or wastes resources.

Is it a waste of time and resources when two groups are working on the same thing, unbeknown to one another? Does more than one group working on a topic increase accountability and increase the rigour of results? Is a survival of the fittest ethos the right way to manage global science?

Read Alexis' essay in full.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Fruits of Curiosity

The recently announced Royal Society 'Fruits of Curiosity: science innovation and future sources of wealth' inquiry is now seeking your views. The inquiry aims to look beyond the current 10-year investment framework and assess the long-term direction of UK science and innovation policy.

The deadline for submitting views is Friday 5 June 2009.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Biochemical Society WLTM new Head of Education

Our Education team supports the Society’s charitable objective of communication, outreach and engagement through a diverse range of novel events and resources: school science websites, teachers' workshops, public events, arts initiatives and festivals, studentship grants, school visits, careers information, policy work and young researchers' symposia.

We wish to recruit a talented individual who will lead the Education Team, managing and further developing an existing portfolio of activities in support of science education and managing 1-2 staff. Educated to at least A Level standard (although a degree in science, communication or education would be desirable) the successful candidate is likely to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills together with the ability to work independently. Budgetary and event organisation skills would be particularly helpful.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? Find out more
Find out more about the Society's education work.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

86/609/EEC amendments continue

The European Parliament has rejected calls for changes in legislation that would have severely restricted the use of animals in research. It was feared that amendments to the directive (which were proposed in 2001) would limit animal research and increase related bureaucracy. Yesterday (May 6th) a large majority of the European Parliament voted in favor of the committee's recommendation and the report now moves to the Council of Ministers.

Despite broad approval from the science community, some aspects of the directive could still cause problems such as continued protection for the tiny juvenile forms of cephalopods and the push for compulsory data sharing on all projects. Final decisions on the amendments to the animal-research directive may not be made for up to 2 years.

Read the ScienceInsider article in full.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Talking about stem cells

Sciencewise has published an evaluation of the UK Stem Cell Initiative (UKSCI). The project involved 50 interviews with stakeholders and three deliberative workshops with 200 members of the public at various regional locations. The project aimed to inform research council decisions related to stem cells in addition to providing guidance on future public engagement on this issue.

Read the evaluation in full.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Job Opportunity: Chief Executive Society of Biology

The Biosciences Federation (BSF) and the Institute of Biology (IoB) are uniting to form the Society of Biology. This new Society, which will be fully operational in the second half of 2009, will provide a single unified voice for all the biosciences and act on behalf of all those who care about the future of biology whether they be teachers, scientists, leaders of organisations or interested non-scientists.

The Interim Council of the Society of Biology now seeks to recruit the first Chief Executive for the new organisation. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to lead and shape an organisation that must quickly deliver the key aims of:

  • representing all who are committed to the practise of biology in academia and industry, and to biological education and research,
  • facilitating the promotion and translation of advances in biological science for national and international benefit, and
  • helping the wider public to engage with the subject.

The successful candidate will have demonstrated that he/she can lead and manage an organisation with drive and success. He/she will be expected to share the vision for the future of the Society developed by the Interim Council and have the ability to deliver it effectively.

Read the job advert in full.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Workings of IUSS select committee come under scrutiny

The broad remit and dwindling membership of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills (IUSS) committee has been raised as a cause for concern. Set up in 2007, there were originally 14 MPs responsible for monitoring the government department with a budget of £17.5 billion.

The THES reports that recently the number of MPs who attend has dropped to nine ‘making it one of the smallest select committees and, on average, just six MPs attend each committee session’.

Brian Iddon, Labour MP for Bolton South East and member of the IUSS committee suggested that ‘the committee‘s remit was too broad, covering science as well as higher and further education.’ However it vital that the committee functions properly, he added ‘the select committees are the only way now we can scrutinise the executive in detail’.

Read the THES article in full

Research Councils to look again at open access

An independent study will cause research councils to review their current policies regarding open access after they admitted their current position was having ‘limited impact’.

Up until this point councils had been unprepared to require all council-funded researchers to use openly available repositories to deposit their work. Instead individual councils had created their own positions on the matter. However, the survey undertaken by SQW Consulting had found that open access is proving more and more popular with UK researchers. In a statement the councils said: ‘(we) have agreed that over time (we) will support increased open access by building on mandates on grant-holders to deposit research papers in suitable repositories within an agreed time period, and extending support for publishing in open-access journals, including through the pay-to-publish model’.

Read the THES article in full

2009 Budget - reallocation of funding a cause for concern

In the wake of the 2009 budget, academics are preparing themselves for a slash in funding after the government ordered for a redistribution of finances.

Research Councils are to manage £106 million in savings from the science budget in order for these to be reallocated to ‘support key areas of economic potential’. In the current economic climate John Denham, the Universities Secretary, said the budget was ‘a good settlement'.

So far no detailed information has been provided as to which programmes may be affected and councils have not been given specific targets. Research Councils UK told the Times Higher Education that the ‘bulk’ of the money would be found by reprioritising research funding. There would most likely be a reliance on co-funding research with the private sector alongside administrative cuts.

Read the THES article in full