Among last week’s meetings was one to discuss how we might best take forward our implementation of the Athena Swan arrangements, and in particular the development of requirements for our fundees to have done so (by applying for and achieving the necessary charter awards), probably in the manner set down by the NIHR for bids to become Biomedical Research Centres.

I managed to attend the dinner discussion of the first meeting of our new Exploiting New Ways of Working Panel, and also had a first meeting since his appointment with Tim Benton, the new Global Food Security Champion.

The horticulture industry is widely (and correctly) seen as an important contributor to a healthy diet, and also to the UK economy. Scientific understanding is a major means of assisting in the improvement of both facets. To this end, I enjoyed a very useful visit to East Malling Research located by the eponymous village in Kent. I was especially interested in the huge improvements in water usage (coupled to both yields and quality) that could be effected, as well as the knowledge emerging from the apple genome sequence. Given all the positive drivers involving food security, horticulture, sustainability, perenniality, climate change and so on, as well as science drivers such as omics technologies, one can only anticipate a substantial increase in opportunities in this space.

I also enjoyed seeing an excellent play at Oxford entitled The Two Cultures, based in part on the famous 1959 Rede Lecture of that name given by CP Snow (on whose 50th anniversary I also blogged).

Other things that I read included:

I also note the Position Statement on Food Security and Safety (PDF) from the Society for General Microbiology, an interesting editorial at Nature Biotechnology on ‘Big Ideas and Grand Challenges’ (written for the US – but presumably useful for any other – Bioeconomy), and the announcement by Minister of Universities and Science David Willetts of a joint program with India in sustainable bioenergy research.

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