Recently I came across an interesting quote from Sir Mark Walport, the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser. It was “science isn’t finished until it is communicated” delivered as part of a speech on climate change at a meeting in Cambridge. As scientists, we do have a duty to not only report our research to other scientists (to funders, the scientific community) but also to communicate relevant scientific findings to both the public and policy makers. How the information is conveyed will need to be contextualised in a way that is meaningful to the intended audience and this can sometimes be difficult. For example, my family frequently tell me that I go into too much detail and overcomplicate things when I am trying to explain some interesting science to them (and they are an engineer and an economist!). An informed society will be able to make more considered choices and be more readily able to engage in future public debates about science and its application and to take full advantage of what scientific advances are making possible. [...]
Last week was extremely busy and varied, starting in Swindon and ending in Manchester. The recurrent themes for the week were value and impact. I attended a meeting of the Foundation for Science and Technology which discussed how best to maximize the value of UK strengths in research, innovation and higher education. There were some interesting perspectives put forward by the speakers including the continued need for cultural change, including an increase in risk taking, in both academia and industry to realize the UK’s true potential; the fact that British companies have adapted to the changing business environment but not actually changed their modus operandi and really driven innovation; how the impact agenda including schemes from ourselves and other research councils has begun to drive people thinking about the broader outcomes of research not just in economic terms, and good examples of academia-industry interactions such as the National Structural Integrity Research Centre were mentioned. [...]
One of last week’s major meetings was one of our periodic gatherings of the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences, where among other aspects I rehearsed the benefits of Open Access (mentioned last week) for Lower Income Countries.
I enjoyed a talk at the British Library from Nigel Shadbolt on Open Data, was taken through the library’s activities in providing persistent DOIs for datasets (DataCite) and an environmental science resource called Envia. On Open Access, I noted a discussion on the importance of appropriate licensing throughout Europe and elsewhere, and participated in a video about the RCUK Open Access policy. [...]
Last week involved a busy day at BIS presenting, with our Chair Professor Sir Tom Blundell, to the Triennial Review team, followed by two meetings chaired by David Willetts on Open Access (where there are some interesting developments in the US) and on aspects of the Agri-Tech strategy.
I then travelled to Boston, to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where I was presented with their Fellowship. This was a huge meeting, but a session I especially enjoyed was one on Visualising Science (including Dennis Meredith, Erik Olsen and Yael Fitzpatrick). William Press gave an excellent Presidential lecture, citing (as I have done) the work of Robert Solow in illustrating the ~30% return that investment in civil science and technology brings. Press also mentioned the work of Kenneth Arrow and Zvi Griliches, the fact that positive feedback (education breeds innovation breeds education…) is necessary to account for exponential increases in per capita incomes, and reciprocal shifts in the percentage of resource going on more fundamental and more applied research from public and private sources, respectively. All entirely applicable to the UK. [...]
Lithuania holds the next presidency of the EU, and we had a very useful meeting with Minister Counsellor Sigitas Mitkus at the Lithuanian Embassy in London. I had visited Lithuania in 1989 as part of a Royal Society-sponsored trip to the former Soviet Union, where I set up my longstanding collaboration with Prof Arseny Kaprelyants. Lithuania has the fastest growing economy in Europe, and we anticipate further useful links.
A now-published report to which I contributed on e‐Science and e‐Infrastructure needs of UK Life Sciences industries is available, and I had a useful meeting with the coauthors and others to take forward our thinking on implementation strategies. Another member of the e-infrastructure leadership Council is Tony Hey, who pointed me to some interesting blog posts of his on Open Access. [...]