As well as a variety of strategic meetings in Swindon, last week included an interesting meeting on sustainable energy in the British Library’s Talk Science series (albeit that neither Combined Heat and Power nor Bioenergy got a mention); probably the most detailed and pertinent contributions came from Prof Phil Taylor from Durham University, who stressed inter alia the gulf between the carbon cost (600g/kWh) on the present grid relative to the 2050 targets that approximate 50 g/kWh). Behavioural change, possibly linked to self- and community-driven generation, was likely to be an important contributor. According to Colin Snape (Nottingham University), Carbon Capture and Storage (implicitly physico-chemicaI) will add 30-60% to generating costs. Personally I prefer biological approaches! I also enjoyed a meeting with the Russell Group, launching two reports, one on the Social impacts of Research (pdf) and one on the importance and characteristics of world-class Universities (pdf), and addressed by BIS Secretary of State Dr Vince Cable and Lloyds Banking Group CEO António Horta-Osório.
We had a superb first meeting of our new Research Advisory Panel, bringing together our Heads of Strategy Panels and Committee Chairs to ensure that strategy and funding are joined up internally. The meeting also allowed a well-received outing of some of the new data visualisation tools we are developing to assist the understanding, summarisation and description of our portfolio.
One of the things holding back some aspects of modern research bibliometrics, and the analysis of the research environment, is the absence of agreed Digital Author Identifiers, whereby one can be sure which ‘John Smith’ is which, as it were. Dealing with that came a step closer with the launch of ORCID, the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (twitter @ORCID_Org), to which I encourage colleagues to sign up. I also note the “Europeanisation” of the UK PubMedCentral (UKPMC) from November 1st into Europe PubMedCentral (Europe PMC) and Europe PMC plus. This change in name is in response to the growing interest in European life sciences research funders to participate in a Europe-wide, open access repository, and specifically the decision of the European Research Council (ERC) to specify Europe PMC as the preferred repository for their research outputs. Passwords etc remain the same as for UKPMC. On Open Access, I was pleased to see that The Institute of Physics has adopted the CC-BY license for its Open Access papers, while on bibliometrics I enjoyed the deconstruction of the myth that having a paper rejected improves its citation count.
Athene Donald’s blog notes the difficulty of reducing policies (on funding interdisciplinary research) to practice, and has clearly experienced (as have I) referees who seemed to think that all proposals should have (indeed should start with) a specific hypothesis. It is not a view that I share, but there is comparatively little that I can do about that, since we do not tell referees what to write. However, we do retain a system where Committee Members are strongly listened to and read and act on the rebuttals of investigators when they think that referees have got it wrong. That is the best defence against silliness.
Finally, I was pleased to see the proof version of a paper designed to assist the prediction (and hence in silico optimisation) of metabolic fluxes, using computation to do the heavy lifting and with minimum well-chosen experiments to provide the necessary constraints.
- Hull D, Pettifer SR, Kell DB (2008) Defrosting the digital library: bibliographic tools for the next generation web. PLoS Comput Biol 4: e1000204. Full, free text
- Kell, D. B. (2012). Large-scale sequestration of carbon via plant roots in natural and agricultural ecosystems: why and how. Phil Trans R Soc 367, 1589-1597. Full free text
- Kell, D. B. & Oliver, S. G. (2004). Here is the evidence, now what is the hypothesis? The complementary roles of inductive and hypothesis-driven science in the post-genomic era. Bioessays 26, 99-105
- 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. Full free text
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