Last week began with a meeting of the Heads of Research Council of the G8 nations, the G8HORCs of the title. This is an annual meeting that moves between member nations, and this time was held in the UK at and near the University of Warwick. This was a very useful opportunity to hear, in a closed setting that allowed a degree of frankness, the thoughts of equivalent leaders of research funding agencies around the world. Many of the issues are common to us all, of course (the increasing costs of doing science, open access, data floods, upskilling our communities, etc.), but the opportunity to share solutions that work was both welcome and taken. Subra Suresh, the relatively new Head of the US National Science Foundation, stayed on for further meetings with the RCUK Chief Executives both as a group and individually, and this allowed a longer and deeper discussion. […]
A felicitous engagement with any number of media outlets (e.g. print, radio, TV) is an important skill to have (for scientists as well as CEOs), and – like any others – can be improved with practice. BBSRC has long run a very successful series for our funded scientists. To this end, I attended a very useful training course designed to refresh my own skills in these areas. Marshalling one’s thoughts for a lay audience, and understanding their intellectual background, is a particular driver of clarity (as I was reminded when being asked to explain the meaning of a Petabyte…).
Readers will know that I have a considerable interest in carbon sequestration (a review will shortly appear), but this has largely been confined to land-based solutions. The ocean holds some 50 times more C than does the atmosphere (see e.g. David MacKay’s book), and can of course exchange CO2 with it. To this end, I enjoyed a very useful discussion in Oxford, that drew my attention to some proposals for liming the oceans, first apparently suggested by Kheshgi and being developed elsewhere. […]
As well as a further set of PPDRs and many internal meetings, a number of last week’s engagements seemed to be around the animal health area, including a meeting with Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for International Development, and the launch of the Global Strategic Alliance for the Coordination of Research on the Major Infectious Diseases of Animals and Zoonoses (STAR-IDAZ) network. The latter is an EC-funded project, led by Alex Morrow of Defra, designed to bring together relevant experts from a very large number of countries worldwide to help coordinate of national research programmes on animal health (including livestock, aquatic animals and bees) and zoonoses world-wide.
Sharing information and discussing it widely is an important part of our work, and the Research Councils hosted a series of meetings with Professor Kathy Sykes from the University of Bristol who chairs the relevant Advisory Group for RCUK. In terms of dissemination, I was pleased to note that this blog itself is referred to as a ‘top tweet’ in the Biofuels Digest! […]
As often, the title summarises the dynamic of this (i.e. last) week’s blog, where I had a variety of meetings with different arms of Governments. An early joint meeting was with Sir John Beddington and the Government Departmental Chief Science Advisers and Research Council CEOs, where we had a wide-ranging discussion. The BBSRC Executive also had an Awayday with a huge agenda of matters to be planned for the future, especially when we know the detailed results for us of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
I had a thoroughly interesting visit to the University of Surrey, where I was brought up to date with some of the projects that we fund, and gave a talk about our own Strategic Plan. I also took the opportunity to visit TMO renewables, an impressive and innovative UK company in the area of bioenergy and industrial biotechnology based both on the Surrey Research Park and with a pilot plant/ demonstrator unit at Dunsfold Aerodrome (where Top Gear is apparently filmed). They have developed some highly efficient processes for cellulosic and other 2nd generation bioethanol. […]
Last week I and others from our community gave talks at the BBSRC-sponsored Crop World 2010, held in the London Docklands. An overview of these appears on the BBSRC website. This was a major and important event, covering everything from cutting-edge science to the distribution chain and economic aspects. There was no doubt that the large audience was well up for the challenges of the Knowledge-Based BioEconomy on which we are all going to depend, and that it starts with primary productivity, i.e. photosynthesis. My own vignette concentrated on the genomics-driven breeding of plants with novel traits, especially those below ground traits of root architecture and function that assist carbon, nutrient and water sequestration. […]