Last week’s activities included a two-day meeting of our Strategy Advisory Board, where (unsurprisingly) we concentrated on our upcoming Strategic Plan, as well as looking inter alia at the results of our survey of high-performance computing needs, and at an externally commissioned analysis of the Knowledge and Technology Transfer activities of our Institutes. Our dinner speaker was Nick Dusic, Director of the estimable Campaign for Science and Engineering organisation. I also attended another couple of meetings around Food Security, where we continue to develop our strategy. One aspect, on which we have not so much concentrated, is the issue of waste in the food chain, and I have just started to read an important book on the subject: Waste – uncovering the global food scandal, by Tristram Stuart. Just as one can recognise the importance of combined heat and power (CHP) stations as a more efficient means of energy conversion than (say) the production of electricity alone, maybe we should start to think more about combined food and energy (CFE) or combined food and biochemicals production (CFB) as one of the ways forward for agriculture and food. This, together with the idea of Biomedical Agriculture that I mentioned before, may change rather significantly what we grow and how we process it.
Apart from a brief visit to my Alma Mater, I then managed to spend most of the latter part of the week in Swindon, catching up with writing documents and hosting several visits from both local organisations and from further afield. I also enjoyed a couple of excellent internal (BBSRC) seminars, a tradition that we have restarted, one on Public Engagement (note also our Public Engagement awards) from Monica Winstanley of our External Relations Unit and another on Synthetic Biology by Sophia Abbasi.
As we announced last week, I am delighted to note the award of the Times Higher Research Project of the Year to Prof Bill Davies and his team from the University of Lancaster. This work, largely funded by BBSRC, was focussed on the development of (and mechanistic understanding of the basis for) drought-tolerant plants, and provides an excellent example of a body of work that combines first rate basic science with activities leading to considerable impact. In other words, Excellence with Impact (PDF), for which of course we have our own eponymous awards competition. In this regard, the second call for applications to receive our Innovator of the Year awards have just been announced.
I am always on the lookout for useful software (especially when it is free). In bioinformatics, I have highlighted the need for software that allows one to compare different systems (rather than simply analysing an individual one). In more general software terms, I have been having some issues with my home PC, and the ability to disable selectively some of the evidently xenophobic software that previously loaded itself at boot time helped solve them. Whilst this blog does not recommend software, readers may be interested to know that the tool that let me do this was a piece of freeware called Revo Uninstaller.
- Kell DB: Systems biology, metabolic modelling and metabolomics in drug discovery and development. Drug Disc Today 2006; 11:1085-1092
- Thompson MD, Thompson HJ: Biomedical Agriculture: a systematic approach to food crop improvement for chronic disease prevention. Adv Agronomy 2009; 102:1-54