As I prepare to go on my summer holidays I’ve been thinking about all that has happened since I took up the role of CE at BBSRC on 1 March 2016 – the David Bowie classic ‘Changes’ jumps immediately to mind.
In my first week (day two to be precise) BBSRC received notification of our funding allocation from the comprehensive spending review, including the creation of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), an opportunity which has brought a new focus on research to tackle the challenges faced by low and middle income countries. Colleagues within BBSRC and across the Research Councils have worked in agile and flexible formation to launch a series of GCRF calls (with more on the way) and a RCUK GCRF ‘call for evidence’ is currently live – please contribute your own thoughts on the high level challenges. I am particularly grateful to Amanda Collis, Interim Executive Director, Science, for leading BBSRC’s approach to GCRF so capably, especially as she too was new in post!
In May the Higher Education and Research White paper was published, followed shortly by the announcement of the related Bill in the Queen’s speech (PDF). The intention to establish UKRI is clearly set out and while the exact details of UKRI remain a work in progress, we have already had really positive engagement and discussions with John Kingman, the Chair of UKRI. I am optimistic that the changes will bring new opportunities for bioscience.
Changes in the landscape seem to have accelerated recently and I am sure that the past three weeks will go down in 21st century British history as some of the most dynamic. The outcome of the EU referendum has raised a number of concerns across the research community and as I mentioned in my last blog, it is important that we continue to work together to ensure that government has clear information on the potential impacts on UK research so that when negotiations commence we are in the best possible position. And in the past week we have seen changes in the leadership at the very top of government, with a new Prime Minister, a new Cabinet and newly-configured departments. We don’t yet fully understand how the movement of Higher Education to the Department for Education, with research remaining in a newly configured Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will impact the sector, but again it is important that we work together to make the most of the opportunities these changes bring. Hopefully we will see a return to stability over the coming weeks, allowing us to focus on how we can best continue to support UK bioscience.
One thing that hasn’t changed since last year (at least at the time of writing) is that Chris Froome is once again leading the Tour de France! Whether you are taking a holiday away or at home, writing that paper or grant or indeed replacing a bathroom – I hope you find time for some relaxation in the coming weeks.