The week began with a meeting of our Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy Strategy Panel, who I was able to join for a useful dinner discussion. Impact is an area of considerable general interest, and I participated in two events on that theme. The first was a TalkScience event (Whose Impact is it anyway?) at the British Library chaired by William Cullerne Bown (Founder and Publisher of Research Fortnight) where I gave a short talk; my co-panellists were Professor Nick Tyler (Head of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering at UCL), Professor Geraint Rees (Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL) and Dr Chris Hale (Deputy Director of Policy at Universities UK). The presentations will be on the Web in due course, and I shall provide a link when they are. The second event was a Foundation of Science and Technology event on Making Science Work, involving a speech by Sir Paul Nurse, PRS, and with ‘responses’ from David Eyton (Group Head of Technology at BP), BBSRC Council Member Dr Andy Richards (Chair of Abcodia et mult al.), and RCUK Chair Professor Rick Rylance. These talks are already on the Web (as well as a pdf summary), and there followed, as ever, two lively discussion periods. All very timely as we begin to set down, once again, the enormous economic value that research in civil science and technology, and especially the Sustainable Bioeconomy, brings to the UK.
RCUK welcomed the publication and analysis in the Finch Report on ‘how to expand access to research publications’ (aka Open Access). A full response will be developed anon. However, it is worth noting that a ‘Gold model’ permits a straightforward change in publishers’ business models, as it simply substitutes subscriptions by ‘article processing charges’, thereby side-stepping questions of embargo periods, the need for lengthy ‘transition’ periods, and the like.
I have blogged fairly often about Digital Organisms, since the values of having a decent model of the thing you are studying is so great. We are developing our strategy, and I had a useful internal meeting to discuss progress.
Given our increasing interest in the sustainability agenda, I noted an interesting story about the move of one major retailer to a nominal carbon neutrality by cutting down on packaging and food waste, and an interesting blog about tracking social media interest in particular scientific articles.
I enjoyed the stunning images in the Wellcome Images Gallery, and I was also most interested in a series of documents put out by the German Bioeconomy Council, not least one on the role of e-infrastructure (pdf).
Articles I enjoyed included a paper showing that two anti-trypanosomal drugs with entirely different structures and modes of action were taken up via an aquaglyceroporin (mutations in which thus could account for cross-resistance), a detailed strategy for turning short-read metagenomic data into pathway information, and the eponymous “computational design of self-assembling protein nanomaterials with atomic level accuracy”.
I also noted a useful report (pdf) from the N8 group of Research-intensive Universities in the north of England on the principles underpinning success and effectiveness in the sharing of equipment. Similar approaches might be applied to our cohort of Institutes enjoying strategic support, and a further question might consider the benefits to be had from easing access to non-HEI users with wallets.
I read a very interesting Editorial on the ‘morals’ and human legislation that might (or ought) to be pertinent to regulating the behaviour of ‘robots’ and automated systems more generally – I am not sure that such analyses have yet been done for the scientific domain, where such autonomous intellectual activities are increasing.
I was pleased to see the update of an accepted paper that used a novel strategy (contrasting with the usual attempt to optimise a biomass function) for analysing and optimising flux balance data when the flux to a desirable product is in fact the objective function.
Finally, I can hardly fail to remark that I was very pleased that we were able to announce my reappointment as BBSRC’s CEO, and hence continuation in this public service role, for a further year, making a total of 5 years.
- Abubucker S et mult al. Metabolic reconstruction for metagenomic data and its application to the human microbiome. PLoS Comput Biol 2012; 8:e1002358. Full free text
- Baker N, Glover L, Munday JC, Aguinaga Andres D, Barrett MP, de Koning HP, Horn D: Aquaglyceroporin 2 controls susceptibility to melarsoprol and pentamidine in African trypanosomes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
- Kell, D. B. & Knowles, J. D. (2006). The role of modeling in systems biology. In System modeling in cellular biology: from concepts to nuts and bolts (ed. Z. Szallasi, J. Stelling and V. Periwal), pp. 3-18. MIT Press, Cambridge
- King, R. D., Whelan, K. E., Jones, F. M., Reiser, P. G. K., Bryant, C. H., Muggleton, S. H., Kell, D. B. & Oliver, S. G. (2004). Functional genomic hypothesis generation and experimentation by a robot scientist. Nature 427, 247-252
- King NP, Sheffler W, Sawaya MR, Vollmar BS, Sumida JP, Andre I, Gonen T, Yeates TO, Baker D: Computational design of self-assembling protein nanomaterials with atomic level accuracy. Science 2012; 336:1171-1174
- Lee, D., Smallbone, K., Dunn, W. B., Murabito, E., Winder, C. L., Kell, D. B., Mendes, P. & Swainston, N. (2012). Constraining flux balance analysis with genome-scale data. BMC Systems Biology, in press. Full free text
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