Tag: agriculture

  • Food for thought

    Uncategorized | Jackie Hunter

    Agriculture and food security in various forms were the main areas of focus during the past week. The agri-food chain (i.e. from farm to fork) contributes about £96Bn to the UK economy and is equivalent to 7% GVA (gross value added). It also provides over 3M jobs.

    The UK government recently recognised the importance of the agri-tech sector and published a strategy earlier in the year for the industry. The aim is to ensure that the UK becomes a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability both in the UK and globally. I attended my first meeting of the leadership council for the Agri-Tech Strategy whose chair is Judith Batchelar from Sainsbury’s. It will be important going forward that all the key stakeholders work together, including industry, to drive the strategy forward. BBSRC has been very active in this area in the past and the Diet and Health Research Industry Club has been particularly successful and we will continue to play a very active role. [...]

  • Research Advisory Panel, ethics, and a valediction

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    While I have some important external meetings this coming week, including one with Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Mark Walport, this will be my last blog (of more than 200) as BBSRC Chief Executive, so it will include some material of a valedictory nature.

    The first major external meeting of last week was of our Research Advisory Panel; this is a most important forum where we bring together the Chairs of Strategy Panels and of the Research Committees who are responsible for Delivery, plus those Council members who are members of the Strategic LoLa Committee. As well as a look at the overall portfolio, we scrutinised progress reports on each of the many Institute Strategic Programme Grants and National Capability Grants. All told, these various activities constitute a large and impressive funding portfolio, albeit (as I have remarked before in the context of a Zipf distribution) one that is comparatively thinly spread among individual investigators. [...]

  • The Royal Society of Chemistry, and the GCSA at Rothamsted Research

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    I had a ‘double header’ last week with the Royal Society of Chemistry, the first being a most interesting meeting to discuss how best to develop the Open Data agenda with a variety of chemical data. It is certainly true that while chemical reactions can be described using a Chemical Markup Language, that in most common use has achieved comparatively little penetration among chemists. This contrasts with the near-universal use of markup languages such as SBML and CellML in systems biology to describe biochemical reaction networks, and including the use and availability of sophisticated ontologies and substantial repositories.  Clearly these two communities can learn a great deal from each other.

    The second was an agreeable networking meeting at the Royal Academy. [...]

  • Institutes conference, the Unity of Biology and GM

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    Last week I attended our National Institutes of the Biosciences conference, this time held at the Roslin Institute, where (as last time in Norwich) we heard a range of absolutely stunning talks across the range of our remit, as you would expect from a country whose biological science is number one in the world. It would be quite egregious to pick out any or many “highlights”, but a major point of a conference such as this is the cross-fertilisation that comes when you bring different experts together with different knowledge, techniques and background, but which – because of the essential unity of biology, and indeed of science – can be applied elsewhere. So for my own work – which only infrequently includes mammalian cell biology, and whose conferences I almost never attend – I saw some fabulous images of intracellular organisation (as in this paper) from Peter Fraser and colleagues at Babraham, using one method which may be of considerable use for a problem in which I am interested. The fruits of modern genome sequencing methods (as in that of an ash dieback survivor) were also becoming especially manifest at this meeting (which also featured a call for more ‘mathematicians’ sensu lato in biology). I myself gave a plenary on our drug transporter systems biology work (as in this and this). I particularly enjoyed a plenary from Edinburgh’s Andrew Millar, who (after a typically erudite rehearsal of his work on the systems biology of circadian clocks, including cases that required no transcription) showed us how some fairly straightforward modelling explained why banking and other financial systems lacking the appropriate negative feedback loops (i.e. proper regulation) were doomed to explode. Some simple remedies exist (see an excellent paper (pdf) from the IMF for instance, and the New Economics Foundation). 90-97% of all present debt has been created by commercial banks lending money to people using (or against) assets they did not entirely have, a well-tested recipe for disaster, and one with an obvious and well-established set of solutions (also already explained by Haldane and May, among others). [...]

  • Succession, health, agriculture, P&G and Cheltenham

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    First of all, I was and am delighted to welcome my successor as CEO of BBSRC in the form of Dr Jackie Hunter, with whom I once served on Council. I shall very much look forward to working with Jackie prior to the ‘handover’ in October.

    We had a number of health- and agriculture-related activities, including an RCUK POST reception on the contribution of research to health, one of our regular bilaterals with Defra Chief Scientist Ian Boyd, and a meeting of the ABPI Innovation group to discuss both open data in clinical trials and patient participation in research projects. We also had meetings of the Joint Strategy Group of RCUK Chief Executives with colleagues from BIS, and of the Chairs and Directors of the Institutes to which we provide strategic support. [...]