Professor Jackie Hunter's blog

News from our Chief Executive

  • Big data challenges and animal welfare

    Jackie Hunter

    Despite the unseasonably warm weather, it’s clearly the end of the holiday season. Having had some time off recently allowed me some time for reading. This not only involved the usual cheap thriller but also an opportunity to catch up on other books that have been sitting on the shelf.

    One book that I think is particularly relevant in this age of big data was ‘The Signal and the Noise: the art and science of prediction’ by Nate Silver. He is a statistician and political forecaster and the book addresses some of the issues we face when the growth of data exceeds our capacity to process it. He warns of the dangers of becoming ‘too starry-eyed’ about what science and technology might accomplish and of inferring causality from mere correlation. [...]

  • Stakeholders and partners

    Jackie Hunter

    I am taking advantage of the relative quiet of August to get out and meet some of our key stakeholders and academic partners. This is one of the best bits of the job as I get to see a range of science and technology – from 10,000 of seedlings being phenotyped to single cell genomics. These visits reinforce the breadth and depth of science we have in the UK and how important this excellence is for companies making investment decisions here. I saw the new collaborative space within the EMBL-EBI ELIXIR building at Hinxton where GlaxoSmithKline scientists are working alongside EBI scientists on target validation. I also got a sneak preview of the 100,000 genomes building the day before it was announced! ELIXIR is a good example of how upfront investment in facilities and capabilities can attract industrial partners to invest in the UK. [...]

  • Evidence and objectivity

    Jackie Hunter

    Several things over the past few weeks have reinforced for me the need for scientists to provide good scientific evidence, the importance of good scientific peer review and the need for objectivity in interpreting and debating the evidence.

    In Nature on 3 July, two high profile papers on stem cell science were withdrawn. The journal concluded that neither the referees nor the journal were at fault in these incidences as they took the data at face value, although it turned out that not all the data was as it seemed (see Nature 10 July, page 140). [...]

  • Global science and international relations

    Jackie Hunter

    I attended and spoke at the UK Research Office (UKRO) conference in Bristol last Friday. The conference is an annual event but this year was also celebrating 30 years of UKRO in Brussels. Since 1984, UKRO has been promoting effective UK engagement in EU research, innovation and higher education activities and operating as the Research Councils’ office in Brussels. [...]