Tag: policy

  • Value, impact and a misfiring laptop…

    Uncategorized | Jackie Hunter

    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. [...]

  • Arts, sciences and open access

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    The overriding theme of last week seemed to be the nexus of where arts and humanities meet the natural sciences (and equivalently where they fail to, as the balkanisation of research remains a major issue).

    One pleasant networking event was the annual invitation from the Royal Society of Chemistry to a viewing of the Royal Academy summer exhibition. As usual this seemed to involve a mixture of wonderful drawings, paintings and sculpture with some frankly more meretricious offerings, but was nonetheless a pleasant occasion to meet a variety of folk for useful informal discussions. [...]

  • Science and policy, geeks, bosons, bankers and Eliot

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    “How will the world end? Not with a bang but a whimper”. These are, of course, the closing lines of T.S.Eliot’s famous poem of 1925 The Hollow Men, and I was reminded of their cosmological nature when reading various announcements of the ‘discovery’ (interestingly, as at the BBC, often in inverted commas) – or more accurately the inference from many trillions of candidate collisions – of the existence of a particle that may or may not be related to the ideas of Peter Higgs. In all of this I have largely failed to find the actual data (here are some secondary data) that underpin the announcement, and whether they have any statistical merit (given that quite recently similar data did not). Especially in the absence of any detailed data, and knowledge of whether the analysis of the trillions of tests was subject to a Bonferroni correction as one would assume is necessary, I do strongly wonder whether, and rather suspect that, the actual result will be similar to the one I predicted for the tachyonic neutrinos. I hope I am wrong, and that we can now firm up our thinking of what this knowledge actually means for our scientific understanding of these matters and their intellectual consequences. [...]

  • Audit board, molecular epidemiology and Imperial College

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    Last week encompassed a wide spectrum of activities, starting with one of the triannual meetings of our Audit Board. This very important Board reports to Council, and is responsible for monitoring our standards of risk management, corporate governance, internal control and financial propriety.

    I then managed to attend the second half of a meeting organised in collaboration with the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency, looking at the potential impact of ‘next generation sequencing’ and related methods on the ability to detect and type potentially pathogenic strains of microbe that might be isolated from food or other matrices. Not least since the recent German E. coli outbreak, it has become pretty obvious that the most sensible – and nowadays most economic – approach to typing an organism is indeed to sequence its genome, since as well as providing a definitive typing, such data provide important information of use in epidemiology (and, by the detection of antibiotic-resistance genes, potentially in treatment). Significant investment, especially in the skills and the necessary informatics, will be necessary to realise this properly, however. [...]

  • Appointments Board, Professors and policy evidence

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    Last week the great majority of meetings were internal meetings in Swindon, although one important external meeting I attended was that of our Appointments Board. Here a considerable degree of scrutiny is attached to ensuring that we have the right intellectual (and where possible diversity) balance on our Committees and Panels. One criterion we use in selecting members for Committees (apart from asking folk to apply) is the effectiveness with which they undertake refereeing assignments that we send to them. Another is the effectiveness of their own grant applications, as both of these metrics pertain to their likely effectiveness when serving on Committees. [...]