The first external meeting was with Prof David MacKay, Chief Scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion focussed on Bioenergy, including theoretical yields of photosynesis, losses in light and dark reactions, the continuing improvement in willow and Miscanthus yields, biological carbon sequestration, anti-flooding plants, the overall contribution to energy and chemicals needs one might anticipate from UK crops, and so on.

I attended an interesting and rationally argued set of talks at the British Library on pollinators and insecticides, chaired by Bill Turnbull of BBC Breakfast News fame (and a clearly committed beekeeper), with Panel contributions by individuals from the British Beekeepers Association, from Cambridge University and from Syngenta. The multifactorial nature of stresses on bees (not least poor weather and inadequate forage) were well explained (and well accepted) by all. Interestingly, most of the issues were precisely those that I had covered in an earlier blog or two.

I also signed off last year’s (2012/13) accounts, attended my final Audit Board, where we focussed in particular on risk, and had a useful day at the University of Nottingham, looking in particular at a variety of their activities in Food Security and Industrial Biotechnology.

I noted a very interesting report on the fact that uncertainty is an important part of science, a nice paper about the antibiotic action of silver ions, and a delightful collection of big data visualisations.

Finally, I also enjoyed the outcomes of the mini-Spending Review, including infrastructure investments, the appearance of a new paper on the use of the techniques of text mining in biochemical pathway annotation, and a show by Steve Mould.

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