Last week, among many meetings in Swindon, saw one of our monthly meetings of the Research Council Chief Executives, including a very useful briefing from HEFCE Chief Executive Sir Alan Langlands about developments and thinking in the ‘other half’ of the dual-support system.
I spent a thoroughly enjoyable half-day at one of the periodic dissemination meetings of the Bioprocessing Research Industry Club (hashtag #BBSRCBRIC). Many first-rate and wide-ranging presentations (both oral and poster) covered everything from novel methods of membrane protein purification to flux balance analysis for predicting and improving recombinant protein productivity. On this latter, I was pleased to see the proofs of a paper to which I contributed, describing a new method for predicting metabolic fluxes – for instance for increasing them for industrial biotechnology. Not for the first time, I might comment that one can often go a very long way in silico, with minimalist but well-chosen experimental measurements to provide constraints!
We continued our series of BBSRC conversations (“roadshows”) (hashtag #BBSRCroad) in Bristol, where a number of very useful points were again raised, mainly around training our community for dealing with Big Data, and how to improve peer review and impact.
On the role of fundamental science in delivering impact, BBSRC was of course delighted to welcome the (arguably rather overdue) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Prof Sir John Gurdon, along with Prof Shinya Yamanaka. Sometimes BBSRC’s impacts can be quite distant from their origins in biology, and one that we highlighted this week is the statistical software that emanated from Rothamsted Research – elements of which originated from the time there of R. A. Fisher. It is always nice to be able to point up BBSRC’s leadership in statistics and biological information technology! On disseminating knowledge for impact, I might also note our upcoming Second Show for Industry event, to be held in Manchester on October 23rd.
Last week I mentioned a letter I had published on the importance of reviews for summarising and indeed advancing scientific knowledge (of course this is well known in Medicine, e.g. via the Cochrane reviews). This has elicited some interesting personal correspondence, including an example of a review where the 2009 swine flu pandemic, on which I blogged more than once at the time, was in fact predicted (see the last sentences of that paper) 6 months before it started!
I enjoyed a nice discussion (iPlayer link) on Open Access, featuring Minister David Willetts and Prof Dame Janet Finch, and note that BIS has now published its important Agri-tech strategy call for evidence.
As part of my anti-spam activities, I mentioned previously that a particular Learned Society and its Journal were proving abusive through their spamming, and this has continued, so it is time to name and shame. The Materials Research Society, and its Journal of Materials Research (the latter from a respectable publishing house, who are clearly being abused via this Society) continue to spam me despite multiple warnings. Academic boycotts declining to publish in or referee for (let alone purchase) such outputs have been shown to change behaviour.
- Jamshad M, Lin YP, Knowles TJ, Parslow RA, Harris C, Wheatley M, Poyner DR, Bill RM, Thomas OR, Overduin M, Dafforn TR. Surfactant-free purification of membrane proteins with intact native membrane environment. Biochem Soc Trans. 2011; 39, 813-818
- Kell, D. B. (2012) Reviews turn facts into understanding. Nature 490, 37
- Lee D, Smallbone K, Dunn WB, Murabito E, Winder CL, Kell DB, Mendes P, Swainston N: Improving metabolic flux predictions using absolute gene expression data. BMC Systems Biology 2012; 6:73. PDF of manuscript
- Ma W, Kahn RE, Richt JA: The pig as a mixing vessel for influenza viruses: Human and veterinary implications. J Mol Genet Med 2009; 3 158-166. Full, free text