In stepping into the role of interim Chief Executive of BBSRC I have been quite overwhelmed by messages of support and have been reassured by many words of encouragement. When I joined BBSRC as Director of Science in October 2012 (initially on secondment from the University of Bath) I didn’t imagine I would eventually be leading the organisation. Such opportunities don’t arise very often and at this particular juncture, as we enter a period of change, it is essential for bioscience to have a strong voice.
Bioscience in the UK has been demonstrated by a number of metrics (PDF) to be world-leading and continuing to support excellence across the continuum of research and innovation is core to BBSRC’s mission. However, in a period of change it is easy to become distracted from what is most important, so how can we retain our focus? I was thinking about this when my family and I attended the track cycling world championships this weekend at the Olympic velodrome. It struck me that training for the Rio Olympics started almost immediately after the London 2012 closing ceremony and maintaining motivation over such a long time-frame must be one of the biggest challenges elite athletes face.
So how do athletes keep motivated? Delving into the literature in the area (not one I am familiar with) reveals the concepts of autonomous motivation, based on personal interest or perceived importance, versus controlled motivation, driven by internal or external factors related to social approval. A recent study of cyclists has shown that autonomous motivation plays a key role in persistence, focus and achievement of increasingly difficult goals.
For BBSRC and our stakeholder community I would hope that we all have a personal interest in, and are motivated by, the importance of maintaining the excellence of the bioscience research and innovation in the UK, enabling new knowledge creation and translation of ground-breaking science to benefit society and the economy.
How will we know we have achieved this goal? Well, we may not have a scientific Olympics, but we should imagine a future where ground-breaking discoveries made by BBSRC-supported scientists are recognised by prestigious awards and have contributed to solving some of the key challenges society is facing today, such as protecting plant and animal health. The recent announcement of Research Council spending review allocations recognises the importance of research to the UK. The significant new investment in the Global Challenge Research Fund and increased commitment to the Newton Fund bring further opportunities for UK bioscience to engage in research that will deliver benefits in developing countries. There will be challenges ahead in managing new opportunities and pressures on existing commitments. Our delivery plan will be published in April and will set out the key BBSRC themes for the next spending period and I am confident that by working together we can achieve our long-term goal.