I was very privileged to be one of 450 women invited to attend the 60th Women of the Year 2014 lunch. It was a humbling experience to be in the same room with so many successful, interesting and courageous women. The awards went to women who have made a real difference to people’s lives – from defending human rights in Zimbabwe (Beatrice Mtetwa) to rising above very difficult personal circumstances to help others cope with poverty (Jack Munroe). All of the award winners and the other nominees had an inspiring story to tell. The Women of the Year Foundation was started in 2001 and supports a number of disadvantaged women both in the UK and abroad to start over and improve their lives either through retraining or in business, thereby realising their true potential – the web page accepts donations should you wish to donate!
Unlike last week, when I went East, this week I went North to visit the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was great to hear about the excellent science going on in these two institutions and their strategic partners. A strong theme that emerged from both visits was the inter-disciplinary nature of biological science and the need to incentivise collaboration across traditionally separate disciplines. BBSRC investment in animal health and disease funds important projects at both institutions – for example at The Roslin Institute which is now part of The Univeristy of Edinburgh and the Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health in Glasgow. It was also interesting to see some really clear examples of how long term funding by BBSRC through a number of different mechanisms has really enabled some very important science to deliver impact both scientifically and in other areas. I would highlight two examples one from each institution.
In Glasgow, BBSRC has funded drosophila work in the lab of Professor Julian Dow over the past decade from 2000 when an original GAIN proposal was funded. The lab has obtained a variety of different grants from BBSRC over the period and these have been instrumental in allowing the lab to develop links both with industry and academic collaborators. The research is now moving towards targeting genes that are common to harmful insects, but which are not found in beneficial insects or humans, and which may have some commercial as well as intellectual potential.
At the other end of the scale BBSRC currently co-funds the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) with MRC, directed by Professor Ian Deary in Edinburgh. This centre was one of three established in 2008 by the cross Research Council lifelong health and wellbeing programme to undertake high-quality multidisciplinary research, increase infrastructure, build academic capacity, and facilitate translation of research into policy and practice in strategic areas of ageing research in the UK. The funding was renewed for a further five years in 2013. The two cohorts that the centre has are providing an invaluable resource for study both in terms of phenotype (cognitive performance and imaging are two examples) and genotype.
Lastly just to remind everyone the Great British Bioscience Festival is nearly upon us and I am confident that it will be a fantastic event. I am looking forward to seeing the bioscience exhibits that have been touring the country over the past months assembled together in Bethnal Green, London as well as the knitted bugs!