As with any organisation or system, its effective functioning requires much internal (as well as external) communication between and within our groups. Thus, most of my meetings last week were ‘internal’, including meetings of our Finance Group (that also includes things like Estates) and our Corporate Policy and Strategy Group. In addition, BBSRC is ‘home’ to the Research Councils Internal Audit Service (RCIAS) that – as you would suppose – provides internal audit and assurance services to the Research Councils and other bodies, and I had one of my regular meetings with its Director.

We also have interactions with many external organisations, and – related to a joint call in Synthetic Biology – we are hosting an official from the Defence Science and Technology Lab (DSTL), with whom I had a scientifically very interesting discussion.

We also had a round of interviews for next year’s BBSRC Council, the results of which will be announced in due course (these are ministerial appointments).

Graphene continues to provide astonishing advances, including a wonderful and unexpected system for (reverse) osmosis and a novel kind of field-effect transistor.

I have a longstanding interest in understanding how best to effect evolution in complex landscapes, and thus enjoyed a very nice couple of experimental papers highlighting the importance of epistasis therein.

I have been reading a fair bit about what (comparatively little) is known about relating protein sequence or structure to function. Much of this necessarily involves informatics as much as ‘wet’ experimentation, and databases such as InterPro are an important part of it. Calculating the potency with which a ligand binds to a protein, as in a new paper, or the properties of ligands themselves, are other important areas. However, increasing the amount of computer power to exascale as part of our e-infrastructure comes at a cost: $200,000,000 per year just for the electricity if we do not work out how to get more flops per watt…!  Specialist architectures, as for protein folding, may well help.

We have recently changed the Governance of most of our strategically supported Institutes. Post hoc, it was interesting to read a thoughtful report on the merits (mainly) or otherwise (sometimes) of moving Public Sector Research Establishments into the private sector.  A related blog post shows how apparently modest assumptions about interest rates can have quite dramatic effects on the costs of or return on investments in education and training.

All of this economics stuff is hard to comprehend, and so I intend to devote some time to discriminating exactly what kinds of activities generate real wealth (and jobs) and which ones merely redistribute it from elsewhere – and may not in fact thereby provide any net economic benefit at all. I have a fear that these may be quite prevalent, and might well underpin the present economic woes being felt in Europe and elsewhere.

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