Last week started with a useful and constructive meeting of the e-infrastructure advisory group that is looking at the e-science needs of our research community. We aim to report by the end of February.

Along with Robert Winston, Dave Delpy from EPSRC and Brian Johnson who chaired the recent synthetic biology dialogue activities, I spoke at a very interesting meeting of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee taking forward the Synthetic Biology dialogue. The consensus at all stages of the dialogue has been the clear nuancing and sophistication of views, with no real evidence of ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ camps, and this was again manifest. It was obvious that everyone enjoyed getting to grips with the significant issues involved in assessing the risk: benefit ratio of any new technology such as synthetic biology, along with the recognition that its roll out would change significantly over time. We shall very much be continuing this dialogue in various fora.

I had a very useful and interesting day visiting our Institute for Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, where I met scientists (and students) at all stages of their careers and learned of a whole series of scientific and other plans. IFR is of course one of 3 of our Institutes on the Norwich Research Park, and adjacent to both the University of East Anglia and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which combined provide a huge scientific workforce, with equally huge and attendant opportunities for synergy.

I attended part of our Tools and Resources Strategy Panel, chaired for the last time by Simon Gaskell who was thanked warmly for all his excellent work for us; Chris Rawlings – the present Deputy Chair – will become the new Chair.

I also attended a Panel meeting of the NC3Rs, where we were judging submissions to determine the paper that we considered likely to have the greatest impact in the 3Rs space (i.e. the replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in research). There were many excellent papers, covering a wide range of activities; the winner will be announced in January.

I had a bit of personal media exposure, such as this in the Telegraph, following a press release to accompany a fairly wide-ranging review that I just published on iron toxicology.

I’m always on the lookout for ways of improving presentations (both as internal thought organisation and as external talks), and for those who do not know them the TED Talks can be inspirational – see in particular those, such as this, by Hans Rosling. I enjoyed Nancy Duarte’s previous book on slide visuals and – an early Christmas present – I have started her latest on how best to enthuse audiences by ensuring an interesting narrative. It is nice to see that I do ‘naturally’ employ some of her ‘tricks’, though I shall be exploiting several more that I had not really formalised in my thinking. Also, the methods she suggests for cohering ideas are strikingly and gratifyingly similar to those that we often use within BBSRC to assist policy development.

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