I had a very enjoyable visit North of the Border last week. This was primarily to visit The Roslin Institute but I also met with scientists from Scotland’s Rural Collage (SRUC) and the Moredun Research Institute. The Easter Bush campus, home to these institutions and others is clearly an exciting place to be and the quality of the science I saw was excellent – too much to single out examples! The design of the Roslin building was particularly interesting and a good example of how architecture can make a big difference, in a positive way, to the research environment.

I really enjoyed meeting a wide range of researchers and hearing about the work they were doing. It was also useful to get feedback from PhD students and post-docs as to what BBSRC might do to help them better understand the grants and review processes. One idea I have already followed up on back in the office is the possibility of allowing these early stage researchers to observe a funding committee meeting.

Phd students Kate Harrison and Katie Nightingale demonstrated some of the innovative materials that they are using to inspire school children and I was glad that I managed to correctly identify the bugs on the slide! This reminded me that BBSRC has some excellent materials on the website for use in schools. There are resources there for all different groups and lots of useful links.

BBSRC also supports our own Schools Regional Champions and we are very supportive of researchers joining up as a STEMNET STEM Ambassador. Like other research councils, we have no formal relationship with the STEM Ambassador network but BBSRC is working with STEMNET on a one-off project for our 20th anniversary. The aim here is to stimulate a burst of bioscience schools engagement around the time of the BBSRC ‘Great British Bioscience Festival‘ in November – providing a guidance booklet, using the ambassador’s networks to raise awareness and developing a system for logging activity.

As well as engaging with schools, the Great British Bioscience Festival will also engage other members of the general public. BBSRC engages with the public in many other ways including more formal dialogues around particular subjects. This week, for example, we have published a report “Food, Nutrition & Health Challenges – BBSRC public dialogue final report”. This summarises the findings of a two session dialogue which explored public views regarding food and health research. In these facilitated discussions, participants were asked to consider why they felt particular ideas around food, nutrition and health were important, and the challenges they felt BBSRC should focus on. Overall, the public agreed with BBSRC’s priorities for research, but identified some areas that needed more attention. The report is being considered by the sub-group developing a revised framework for BBSRC food, nutrition and health research and the points raised with be addressed in a BBSRC response, to be published in the near future.

Currently I am in Berlin at a very interesting meeting on quotas and diversity of which more next week.

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