The first external visit of the week was to Unilever’s research laboratory at Port Sunlight. As a company with interests in food, health and healthcare, and with a published intention to move towards full sustainability of its value chain by 2020, it was not surprising to see that their strategic interests map closely onto our own.
We had a useful meeting on the Norwich Research Park with the Directors and Directors of operations of our strategically funded Institutes, including updates on campus developments, plans for sharing facilities and much else.
We also had one of our regular meetings with the Technology Strategy Board. Although there is very frequent and considerable coworking at every level, these meetings, as for those with the Institutes, serve as effective fora to exchange thoughts and knowledge of our activities and strategies.
I have been on a couple of occasions to the Science Foo camp held at the Googleplex, and last week was able to attend an informal meeting with some UK-based folk who had too. The uniting feature is an interest in digital methods and recognition that these are going to have a massive impact on our lives, including the optimal doing of science, a view I certainly share. A couple of folk I met for the first time were Mark Hahnel from Figshare and Ben Fields from Musicmetric. The former is science-based and aimed at the open sharing of scientific results, while the latter uses time series and other computational analyses of social networks to document, visualise and understand the popularity of particular artists. There are some obvious uses for that kind of technology in analysing the scientific literature, for instance.
All of these computational methods require that data are available in the first place, and (as recognised in our data sharing policy) having them interoperable is a second prerequisite for their efficient reuse and incorporation into more refined workflows. The online availability of literature and its more convenient bibliometric analysis does, however, offer some unwelcome opportunities – that are best resisted – to game the system.
I am always on the lookout for methods, and especially computational methods, that might be used to make enzymes go faster, and thus enjoyed a new paper that used an online crowd-sourcing method to improve ~20-fold the catalytic rate constant of a ‘designed’ but sluggish Diels-Alderase. Other reading I enjoyed included a summary of open access papers in PLoS collections on genetically modified insects, including an interesting one on their appropriate regulation. Unlike one on organic reaction mechanisms to which my attention was drawn, however, it was not written in free verse.
- Alphey, L. & Beech, C. (2012). Appropriate Regulation of GM Insects. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 6, e1496. Full free text
- Bunnett, J. F. & Kearley, F. J. (1971). Comparative mobility of halogens in reactions of dihalobenzenes with potassium amide in ammonia. J Org Chem 36, 184-&
- Eiben, C. B., Siegel, J. B., Bale, J. B., Cooper, S., Khatib, F., Shen, B. W., Players, F., Stoddard, B. L., Popovic, Z. & Baker, D. (2012). Increased Diels-Alderase activity through backbone remodeling guided by Foldit players. Nature Biotechnol. (online)
- Sansone, S. A. et mult al. (2012). Toward interoperable bioscience data. Nat Genet 44, 121-6. Full free text
- Siegel, J. B. et mult al. (2010). Computational design of an enzyme catalyst for a stereoselective bimolecular Diels-Alder reaction. Science 329, 309-13. Full free text as manuscript
- Wilhite, A. W. & Fong, E. A. (2012). Coercive citation in academic publishing. Science 335, 542-3
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