Chief Executive's blog

News from our Chief Executive, Professor Jackie Hunter

  • A week in California

    Jackie Hunter

    The past week and a bit was spent on the US West Coast, talking to experts in Big Data, Synthetic Biology (Synbio) and Plant and Animal Health. My colleagues, Melanie Welham and Amanda Collis, and I had some fascinating discussions which really helped put our plans for the next spending review in an international context. For example, in Synbio, it is clear that the approach needs to be truly multidisciplinary with a well-articulated biological problem at the heart of any programme rather than developing the tools and technologies in the abstract. However, investment in platforms is still required. It is also clear from talking to a number of researchers that the USA does not have an integrated Big Data strategy nor an overall Synbio strategy, although there are many well-funded initiatives. I wonder whether there is a need for some global solution for integrating and maintaining databases when funding terminates for a particular area. In the biomedical/health space, this might be something for Gates Foundation or another global funder to address in partnership with more regional funders. Who funds, and what to store permanently and how, is definitely something that needs more debate. […]

  • Uniting to champion research, innovation and growth

    Jackie Hunter

    Over the past few months I have been working with colleagues from across the Research Councils  to pull together the fabulous impact stories that we have to tell from the research that the Councils have invested in over the past spending review period.  As ‘impact champion’ for the Research Councils it has been an interesting experience to see how important it is to tell these impact stories in a clear way that doesn’t blind people with the great science that underpins them. […]

  • Tackling resistance is far from futile

    Jackie Hunter

    One of the ways BBSRC seeks input from our research community and other stakeholder groups is through our Research Advisory Panel (RAP). The panel helps with assessing our strategic thinking across the range of our activities and we had our first meeting of the year last week. One of the areas we discussed was anti-microbial resistance (AMR). Of course this has been an issue that has been very much to the fore in the past couple of years since the publication of Dame Sally Davies’s report on the subject and a report last year by RAND showed that the economic burden of AMR globally in the future will place a substantial burden on the world economy. The report concludes that it is this future burden that renders AMR a “challenge of utmost importance”.  There is also a UK government 5-year strategy for tackling anti-microbial resistance covering both human and animal AMR which was published in 2013 with the first annual progress report published in December 2014. There is still a need to increase understanding of AMR and its implications among non-scientists.  For example an informal, and yes very random, trawl of people I met last year from taxi drivers to friends and family showed that many people still think it is the person that is resistant to the antibiotic rather than the bug! I am pleased to see that Dame Sally will be taking her message about the threat from AMR to the AAAS Annual Meeting in the United States next month, where the Research Councils will also have a strong presence emphasising the importance of global collaboration to tackle this and other major challenges facing us. […]

  • Engaging our plant and agriculture stakeholders

    Jackie Hunter

    Over the past couple weeks I have been able to focus a bit more on our stakeholders and collaborators in the Agritech and plant sectors. During the first week of January I made my first ever visit to the Oxford Farming Conference and I was very impressed. BBSRC held a fringe meeting highlighting some of the research we have invested in, how it is translated and the role of stakeholders in accelerating and maximising impact. The room was packed! I must congratulate our presenters who all kept to time and presented their work in a way that was both clear and impactful. I certainly had very good feedback on the session from people I spoke to over the next few days. It was nice to see that Tom Heap from BBC Countryfile was there and engaged – I am an avid fan of Countryfile and it quite leaves a hole in my Sunday evenings if it’s not on! […]

  • A coming year of reviews and a personal perspective on dementia

    Jackie Hunter

    A Happy New Year to everybody. Clearly a year that contains a General Election, a spending review and a review of the Research Councils will not be dull!

    I hope the review of the Research Councils will give more opportunities to exemplify the impacts arising from the Research Councils’ investments in research, how we invest collaboratively and dynamically to respond to new challenges and changing priorities and how we are striving to be more efficient. It will also, of course, identify ways in which the Research Councils could be more effective, efficient and innovative in their operations, as indeed all organisations should strive to do. […]