Tag: knowledge

  • 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. […]

  • e-infrastructure and Higher Education

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    The main theme running through last week’s activities was probably the interface between e-infrastructure and Higher Education. E-infrastructure is a term that can encompass anything involving digital technology, digital resources (including data), and the folk who produce and consume them, and as such is a critical part of the research landscape. I am closely involved in this area both for BBSRC and – as so-called Champion for the Research and Development Group (RDG) – for the Research Councils more generally. Together with AHRC’s Shearer West, Chair of RDG, I therefore participated in an interesting meeting to discuss how we could better align our interests, knowledge and ambitions with those of research-intensive HEIs, and this will help feed into an ongoing review of e-infrastructure for research, in which I am also involved. […]

  • KBBE – the Knowledge-Based BioEconomy for Europe

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    The acronym KBBE (and its equivalent twitter hashtag) may not yet be well known, but what it stands for – the Knowledge-Based BioEconomy – soon will be as it is recognized as being at the very core of the European Union’s economic development. To this end I visited Brussels to attend an extremely important conference on ‘the KBBE towards 2020’. The plenaries were from EC Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geogheghan-Quinn, from Marion Guillou (CEO of our sister French Agriculture Research Organisation INRA), ex-EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler and the CEO of Novozymes Steen Riisgard. It was excellently chaired by Maive Rute, Director of the Biotechnologies, Agriculture and Food Directorate. What was striking about each of these brilliant and inspiring presentations was the straightforward recognition – to the extent that they simply regarded it as axiomatic – that

    1. a very large fraction of the future EU economy was indeed going to (have to) come from innovations in agriculture and the bioindustries that flow from the fact that pretty well all carbon (for energy and chemicals and materials of all kinds) will need to have been fixed from atmospheric CO2 by modern photosynthesis (as opposed to that which occurred on geological timescales).
    2. that world-class bioscience and biotechnology were going to be the main means by which this would be achieved. […]
  • UKPubMedCentral – an Open Access digital library of biomedical science

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    It is not news that in order to make principled use of the data, ideas and knowledge from a scientific paper it is necessary to have read it. However, there are two immediate problems with this ostensibly simple fact. The first is that it is necessary to have access to the paper in the first place, and traditional publishing models require that the user needs to pay for this privilege – and not all can do so. The second is that even if one does have access to the paper, one potentially has access to millions of them (as I mention regularly, PubMed alone is increasing its list of peer-reviewed papers in biomedicine by two per minute!), so clearly any individual scientist (or layperson) needs means to prioritise those that they might wish to read. UKPubMedCentral (UKPMC) is a new service that is intended to provide them. […]

  • Surely everyone knows this?….except that they are wrong

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    Science (whose etymological origin means ‘knowledge’) is supposed to be based on objective and verifiable facts, but as I have blogged before there can occasionally be a tendency to groupthink. This is a phenomenon in which, simply by multiple repetition of them, ‘facts’ become widely ‘known’ after a while, even when they have no or limited experimental basis (something easily amplified via the Internet). (I experienced a related issue during my D. Phil., where I traced back a series of literature references to a widely cited claim that the purportedly passive concentrative uptake ratio of a particular lipophilic cation into Escherichia coli was independent of its external concentration over a huge range. […]