Last week included lengthy meetings assessing the proposals for quinquennial funding from the Institutes to whom we give strategic support. These proposals fell into two categories, viz National Capability Grants and Institute Strategic Programme Grants, with separate Panels for each. I was very pleased with the care, thoroughness and expertise displayed by the Panels as they reviewed some very complex and wide-ranging materials. Their deliberations will feed into a series of Institute Assessment Panels carried out on site throughout the autumn, for final decisions to be taken by Council early next year.

We also had one of our quarterly meetings of all the Research Council Chief Executives with the Director General of Science and Innovation and colleagues at BIS. I also had one of my regular meetings with Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, with whom we are developing quite a number of programmes.

I had a very pleasant time at our biennial Fellows’ Conference, enjoying a good number of talks and posters covering the breadth of our science – a breadth also highlighted in the just-published and highly favourable review of our David Phillips Fellowships scheme.

The recent outbreak of a rather nasty foodborne strain of E. coli prompts one to recognise that we shall always need rapid and effective methods for the diagnosis of microbes (and other organisms). Other organisations such as the Health Protection Agency and the Food Standards Agency have significant interests and expertise in this area, and we have agreed to work together to ensure the dissemination (and as necessary the further development) of the best current knowledge.

Data Standards and related matters are very important to us, and I was pleased to coauthor a paper that has just been accepted for publication, entitled Controlled vocabularies and semantics in Systems Biology. An interesting suggestion (flagged in Research Fortnight) from Research Libraries UK is that all REF submissions should be available in Open Access format; this might provide a useful catalyst for academic publishers to move to such a business model.

There has been cause to lament the decline of the British Apple and Pear industry, so I was pleased to hear a heartening radio piece from English Apples and Pears about their increasing share of the home market, driven by the breeding of new varieties.

Having published on this with aptamers, I enjoyed a couple of nice reviews on the role of large-scale sequencing in plant biology and in protein function. I also enjoyed the clever biomimetic development of a non-Pt catalyst for dihydrogen production based on knowledge of a hydrogenase structure, and a summary of evidence that – like pharmaceutical drugs – even CO2 requires a carrier for its transmembrane transport. Finally, I noted a nice paper summarising the point that “the difference between significant and not significant is not itself necessarily significant”. Now that is significant.

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