During the past week I have attended the meetings of two groups that make important contributions to BBSRC’s scientific strategies, our Research Advisory Panel and Appointments Board (more on this next week).

Membership of our Research Advisory Panel is drawn from across our advisory structures and includes the Chairs of our responsive mode, strategic Lola and fellowships committees, strategy advisory panels and members of Council. It helps to ensure BBSRC draws on a diversity of perspectives. We welcomed Jane Silverthorne, from the Bio Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF), as an observer at this meeting. We enjoy excellent relations with the NSF and have partnered with them for a range of funding calls including through a Lead Agency pilot agreement, Ideas Labs and ERA-Nets.

The BBSRC Research Advisory Panel considers a range of topics and one of the items on the agenda for our recent meeting was an update on the Global Food Security programme, delivered by GFS Champion, Tim Benton. The challenge of ensuring the security and sustainability of food production and supplies across the globe is familiar to many of us, but it is not simply a matter of producing more food. The most recent Harvard ‘Healthy eating plate‘ recommends that approximately half of our diet should comprise vegetables and fruit. However, globally we don’t currently grow the right proportion of foods to provide this ‘healthy plate’ and it’s not clear if this is achievable given demands on water, energy and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It seems to me that we need to think beyond yield and provision of calories and consider what is needed to deliver ‘sustainable nutrition’, for example what might a Paris Climate Change-compliant diet look like?

Staying on the theme of food and nutrition, interest in the role of diet and the gut microbiome in sustaining health continues to grow. I am looking forward to attending the Food-Microbiome Interaction: Implications for Health & Disease’ meeting jointly organised by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Quadram Institute, which will explore the latest developments in this field. However, interest in this field is not confined to the research community. While in the hairdressers a couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of Vogue magazine (not my usual read) and was intrigued to see an article entitled ‘It’s a bugs life’. Flipping through to the designated pages I was surprised and thrilled to read a discourse on the role the microbes in our gut – including reference to the Human Microbiome Project and with quotes from Rob Knight (UCSD) a leader in the field and someone I met last year during a visit to the USA. I would be interested to know how the regular readership of Vogue responded to this article and perhaps this is another route to public dissemination that as researchers we should consider?!

Related posts (based on tags and chronology):