Last week I had a variety of meetings, some as part of a regular series such as those with Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor at Defra, and with the BioIndustry Association (here focussing largely on Industrial Biotechnology). However, a variety of other meetings focussed on the opportunities for scientists and funders offered by digital (or e-) infrastructure.

One internal meeting involved discussions of how we as funders will be able better to automate the capturing of outputs (such as papers) and linking them over time to the grants that funded them. Another showed me where we are with an internal tool that will help us capture outcomes and impacts.

I also had a visit to Digital Science, where I was shown a variety of software tools for enhancing (and indeed assessing) scientific productivity. This is something I have a considerable personal interest in, but such tools are also going to be of benefit to all of our community in keeping UK Biology at the forefront. I was able to repeat my slogan to the effect that “Three months in the lab can save you a whole afternoon on the computer”.

A rather nice – actually a really excellent – and related blog post (“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a bioinformatician!”), also available as a pdf, rehearsed the fact that biologists need and can benefit greatly from the tools of bioinformatics, but that such tools are largely inaccessible to most mainstream biologists. I heartily concur, and we strongly welcome (and even have mechanisms for funding) attempts to provide them.

My ‘deep roots’ paper has now appeared online, and seems to have attracted a fair bit of Web attention. Its attendant Carbon sequestration calculator is also now online.

I particularly enjoyed a superb review by Sang Yup Lee and colleagues setting out the very rapid improvements in (mainly micro)organisms for industrial biotechnology that can be effected by the judicious combination of systems biology, synthetic biology and directed enzyme evolution. I also enjoyed a very interesting attempt to relate ca 30,000 protein structural domains to their functional diversity. Such knowledge can certainly contribute to the directed evolution agenda. On a separate note, I also enjoyed (intellectually) one of the Debtonation blogs rehearsing the causes and cures of recent economic woes. I have a feeling that we’ll all be hearing a lot more about such analyses in the coming weeks and months.

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