Tag: knowledge

  • Practical school science is vital

    Uncategorized | Jackie Hunter

    Last week I was very disappointed to learn that Ofqual had recommended the downgrading of practicals in the new A and AS level syllabus.

    The reasons given for this were primarily that:

    • Predictable assessments have led to narrow teaching, students getting similar results and assessments that don’t give exam boards evidence
    • Marks that don’t reflect students’ overall ability

    I don’t feel that the reforms are the way to address these problems. Predictable assessments, a lack of differentiation of students and the marking of tests should be better addressed by redesigning the practicals rather than removing their contribution to the final grade. [...]

  • Summer, cricket and Bayes

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    This week the blog and I are officially on holiday, which allows me to enjoy a few of my hobbies such as following the cricket via the splendid Cricinfo and the evening highlights programme (it is nice finally to see the England cricket team number one in the world, just like the UK’s biologists). I have also been catching up on my reading (including via my new ownership of a tablet computer that runs the free Kindle app).

    I have much enjoyed reading a popular book on the history of Bayes’ rule; it is extremely well written, and makes the story thoroughly gripping, as indeed it is. I am an increasing fan of the Bayesian approach, and I am writing something about it over the summer. I also read a handy little book on Matrix Management, and (with computer simulation occupying a philosophically uncertain position between ‘theory’ and ‘experiment’) one on the epistemology of computer simulations. [...]

  • e-infrastructure, networks and change

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    Last week was somewhat truncated by the Bank Holiday, and I had comparatively few external meetings on which to report. However, since I have a role in the oversight of the needs of e-research and e-infrastructure for RCUK, as ‘champion’ of the RCUK Research Group, one meeting that was particularly useful was with the senior team of the Joint Academic Network, aka janet, that has provided – without most users knowing or probably caring how – effective access to the internet for the UK academic community since as long as I have known.

    Historically, we have (within reason) been able to move as much data (bytes) as we cared to around the network, but the rise of Big Data, data-driven science, Open Data, and in BBSRC’s case in particular genomics data, means that there is increasing recognition that we might soon break the system without a step change. [...]

  • PPDRs, biofuels, risk and knowledge

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    I suspect that most readers returning to this blog post-Purdah will wonder what are the PPDRs of the subject line (and the PP is not ‘post-Purdah’…). PPDR stands for Personal Performance and Development Review, and represents a formal annual interview of individuals with their line managers (at BBSRC and elsewhere). They are one of the mechanisms, and a very valuable one, that helps to ensure that an organisation and its people – at different places in the wider or narrow scheme of things – are working effectively. As an annual event they have a season, and this starts after Easter, such that I have conducted three this week alone. (Of course I have my own PPDR, that happens later in the summer.)

    As with the previous two blogs (before Easter), my activities continue to include meetings designed to develop our thinking (and strategies and delivery) in the Bioenergy and Industrial Biotechnology space. To this end we had a useful meeting with the leaders of BP’s Biofuels activities, since it is not news that they have been making major investments here. From the perspective of the Research Base, where we recognise that this needs to happen bigtime in the world of manufacturing, it is highly encouraging that such companies have already joined the party for the development of the Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy. [...]

  • Risk, transparency, judgement, dissemination and development sciences

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    The dreadful events in Japan, as seen from afar, necessarily raise the question of how scientists communicate risk both in general terms, and especially during emergencies. Astonishingly, “Communicating risk and scientific advice during emergencies: don’t panic?” was the long-arranged title of a TalkScience discussion held last week at the British Library and led by Mark Henderson of the Times and Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser – who arrived hotfoot from spending much of the day doing just such activities and assessments. There are no easy answers here, as even a top-class statistical analysis of what facts are known can give quite different answers depending on whether one takes a more ‘frequentist’ or a Bayesian probabilistic point of view (I incline to the latter). Risk analysis is an exceptionally interesting area, that deserves a lot more space in these blogs, as judgements lie at the heart of the scientific agenda.

    Expertise, judgement, discernment and the ability to deliver quality advice are qualities that lie at the heart of the requirements for members of our various Boards, Committees and Panels.  I attended a very useful meeting of our Appointments Board, that is charged with optimising our selections of members from those who apply to join them. [...]