Among a number of our community who were honoured in Her Majesty’s list of New Year Honours (pdf), I was especially delighted to see that our Deputy CEO and Chief Operating Officer Steve Visscher had been awarded a richly deserved CBE, for Services to the Support of Scientific Research. BBSRC’s formal announcement is elsewhere, so here all I shall record is many congratulations indeed to Steve!

Just before the break, the Government’s Intellectual Property Office published an important updated response (pdf) to the Hargreaves Review, setting down clear guidance as to how copyright is to be modernized to allow (among other things) researchers to make the best fair use of published research – which by definition needs to be Open Access. While Open Access has some transition costs (financial and otherwise) I do hope  that UK researchers will be alive, encouraged, and thereby well placed, to exploit the opportunities that such Open Access brings for innovation.

Beyond the more obviously ‘scientific’ literature, my ‘Christmas present’ reading included a large tome by the famous chef Heston Blumenthal, in which he mentioned a studentship we have funded on texture-forming polymers, as well as a couple of cricket books and several others on creativity, a subject that continues to interest me (see also a nice link).

A tweet drew my attention to the 2012 round-up by 24 Permanent Secretaries and similar, most including excellent (i.e. appropriately pitched, groaner-style) Christmas cracker jokes. The report from BIS’ Martin Donnelly is here. You’ll have to read them all to get to the jokes, but for a splendid bit of geekish humour among them look here.

I am not planning to indulge in major ‘New Year Predictions’, but I can point at an interesting list of some others for last year and one for 2013. This said, there are some easy predictions in our space about the likely rise in importance of nutrition and nutrient-enhanced agriculture, of e-science, and of synthetic biology, all contributing in a big way to the Sustainable Bioeconomy, and we shall certainly be awaiting the forthcoming publication of the Government’s Agri-Tech strategy, for which the evidence solicited is now being considered.

I enjoyed an interesting piece on the role of synthetic biology in producing specified molecules, one on the appropriate use of statistics in biology, noted the Soil Carbon Initiative and the importance of immediate greenhouse gas mitigation, reminded myself of the important unsolved problem of alkaliphiles in bioenergetics, and enjoyed an excellent short video on issues of Open Access. The Blackadder take on Green and Gold is here.

As usual, and as last year, my first meeting of the year was the Oxford Farming Conference, where we sponsored one of the sessions at the ‘Fringe’ entitled “What is agricultural sustainability and what can science contribute?” Among many excellent talks at the meeting, a speech by Lord Henry Plumb, the address by Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson and a powerful lecture by Mark Lynas were stand-outs of the first day and a half, while the final day saw a particularly good session on technology and innovation, including an overview from David Gardner, CEO of RASE, plus Rothamsted’s Maurice Moloney on what science can do for wheat yields, Mark Smith from Genus on genetics-driven livestock improvements, and Jake Freestone on precision farming. All the talks are on the OFC website.

Related posts (based on tags and chronology):