A felicitous engagement with any number of media outlets (e.g. print, radio, TV) is an important skill to have (for scientists as well as CEOs), and – like any others – can be improved with practice. BBSRC has long run a very successful series for our funded scientists. To this end, I attended a very useful training course designed to refresh my own skills in these areas. Marshalling one’s thoughts for a lay audience, and understanding their intellectual background, is a particular driver of clarity (as I was reminded when being asked to explain the meaning of a Petabyte…).
Readers will know that I have a considerable interest in carbon sequestration (a review will shortly appear), but this has largely been confined to land-based solutions. The ocean holds some 50 times more C than does the atmosphere (see e.g. David MacKay’s book), and can of course exchange CO2 with it. To this end, I enjoyed a very useful discussion in Oxford, that drew my attention to some proposals for liming the oceans, first apparently suggested by Kheshgi and being developed elsewhere.
Helping drive and discuss the provision of adequate e-infrastructure to ensure that the research base stays ahead of the curve is part of my role as ‘champion’ of the research group in RCUK, and I thereby serve on the board of JISC, who met last week. Following the Wilson review of JISC this is a time of considerable transition and change, and all will be working to ensure an exciting and effective digital future here.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics conducts many high-class and deep reviews, a recent one being that on biofuels. I was pleased to attend a roundtable discussion as part of their present project on ethical issues surrounding emerging biotechnologies. This is certainly a complex and detailed area for discussion, that gets to the heart of how we should respond to a society’s risk appetite in terms of the risk:benefit ratio of any new (or indeed old) technology.
Risk (to be contrasted with hazard – risk is effectively hazard times exposure) is something that any organisation or individual is exposed to, and ensuring we manage risk adequately is one of the many important functions of our Audit Board, whose meeting I attended part of last week.
Biofuels (as part of our strategic theme on Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology) continue to hold our interest, and BBSRC contributed to an eponymous Nature Outlook series published last week. Another example of the dissemination of our ideas via the media.
Flavell, R., de Brito Cruz, C. H., Christie, M., Allen, J., Keller, M., Gilna, P. & Kell, D. B. 2011 Moving forward with biofuels. Nature Outlook Biofuels 474 (pdf).
Kell, D. B. 2011 Breeding crop plants with deep roots: their role in sustainable carbon, nutrient and water sequestration. Ann Bot., in press.
Kheshgi, H. S. 1995 Sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide by increasing ocean alkalinity. Energy 20, 915-922.
MacKay, D. J. C. (2008). Sustainable energy – without the hot air. UIT Cambridge. Available free online.