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. [...]
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In Nature on 3 July, two high profile papers on stem cell science were withdrawn.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). [...]
The last few weeks before Christmas have been very busy with meetings with Chief Executives of the other Research Councils, partnership meetings with industry, BIS and other public bodies, as well as presentations and talks.
I attended a council meeting of the Society of Biology and agreed with members around the table that we should explore other areas where we could work more closely together.
The highlight of the past two weeks (apart from my daughter’s graduation!) was the official launch of ELIXIR in Brussels on 18 December. This marked the transition of ELIXIR to an operational phase as Europe’s sustainable infrastructure for biological data. [...]
My first two weeks at BBSRC are nearly over and I can honestly say that they have lived up to my expectations – i.e. variety, great science and people and a wee bit of travel…
Last week, as well as spending time in Swindon, I also visited the Norwich Research Park which was hosting the quarterly meeting of the directors of the National Institutes of Bioscience at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC). The meeting chair was Mario Caccamo who was recently appointed as the head of TGAC. The TGAC staff also talked about their work at a poster display but highlights from all the institutes were discussed. [...]