Tag: UK Research and Innovation

  • Bees, diversity and worms

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    I hope, like me, you have been able to take some time away from your ‘day jobs’ to recharge and refresh over the past couple of months. This year my family and I travelled to Croatia and Bosnia for our summer break – both very scenic and interesting locations – although cycling, as we were, in temperatures of 30-35OC did not feel particularly refreshing! During our trip we had an interesting visit to a local third-generation Bee keeperon the Croatian Island of Solta, whose enthusiasm and concern for the health of our pollinators knew no bounds. He was delighted to hear about the outcomes of the multidisciplinary Insect Pollinators Initiative that we supported, summarised in this recently published evaluation.

    This week sees UKRI announce the appointment of their External Advisory Group for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).It consists of 12 members spanning academia, the public and private sectors and demonstrates UKRI’s commitment to the EDI agenda. Professor Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair and UKRI Executive Champion for EDI will chair the group, which will inform the creation of a long-term EDI strategy for UKRI that is ambitious, whilst being feasible and evidence-based. It will help UKRI to embed equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels and in everything that we do.

    In relation to this EDI had a huge boost last week when Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell announced that she was donating her Breakthrough prizemonies (of £2.3M) to support diversity in physics, specifically to enable more women, underrepresented minorities and refugees to become physics researchers. This was reported widely in scientific and broader news channels (for example, The Guardian, BBCandThe Globe and Mail) around the globe. Professor Bell Burnell was awarded the Breakthough prize ‘for fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community’. I was fortunate enough to work with Jocelyn when she was Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Bath and personally benefitted from her leadership, support and encouragement when I myself was seeking to progress. I have huge admiration for Jocelyn, warmly congratulate her on this prize and on her choice to so visibly support diversity and inclusion in physics – a great role model.

    Staying with the theme of Space – in its broadest sense – one of the more unusual projects in BBSRC’s portfolio has caught the imagination of the media this month. The Molecular Muscle Experiment,a collaboration between scientists at the Universities of Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster, is due to reach a new milestone later this year with the launch of thousands of C. elegans worms into space. The research will see the worms living and reproducing on the International Space Station, in an effort to understand the molecular changes that occur during muscle wastage. The similarity between worms’ muscles and our own makes them a common model species for neuromuscular research and the loss of muscle during spaceflight is a major barrier for long-term missions, but is also a problem for those on earth afflicted with muscular dystrophies, diabetes, injuries and age-related declines in strength. This project is supported by The European Space Agency, UK Space Agency, BBSRC, MRC, and Arthritis Research UK and is a great example of national and international collaboration.

  • Extreme weather…and food production

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    Depending on your perspective you may have been relishing the recent spell of unusually hot and dry weather – if, on the other hand, you are one of the many farmers who have been struggling to combat the heat, drought and feed shortages your view is likely to be quite different. Whatever your thoughts on the ‘summer of 2018’, the extreme weather conditions highlight the importance of boosting the resilience of food production systems in the UK to help ensure food supply is maintained. […]

  • ESOF, plastics and feeding fish

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    This year’s European Science Open Forum (ESOF) was recently held in Toulouse and attended by scientists, researchers, policy makers and interested members of the general public from across the world. It was heartening to see members of the UK community making a significant contribution to what was a very varied programme*. UK leadership in bioscience was well represented with varied talks and policy discussions including Tim Benton on food security and Richard Thompson (University of Plymouth) on the hot topic of plastic pollution in the ocean, with others discussing the future for plastics. […]

  • Stakeholder engagement: learning more about how the community views BBSRC

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    Earlier in the year I wrote to more than 2,500 of you inviting your views on BBSRC to inform our third stakeholder survey. As a leader and funder of bioscience research, BBSRC needs to understand and respond to its community and wider partners. We invited stakeholders to tell us how well we are supporting their needs and to give their perceptions of BBSRC, particularly timely as we move into a new funding landscape within UK Research and Innovation. I would like to personally thank everyone who took the time to participate and I would also like to thank Pye Tait for undertaking the research and data analyses on BBSRC’s behalf.


  • What a week that was for showcasing bioscience!

    Uncategorized | Melanie Welham

    The week commencing 14 May 2018 was certainly one to remember for all of the opportunities it brought to showcase UK bioscience across the nation.

    As part of the formal launch of UK Research and Innovation, we were delighted that on Monday the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gymiah, visited the soon to be completed Quadram Institute on the Norwich Research Park. The Minister was accompanied by UK Research and Innovation CEO Sir Mark Walport and I, along with other partners including Quadram’s Director, Ian Charles, University of East Anglia Vice-Chancellor David Richardson and Mark Davis, CE of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals. Minister Gymiah met early career researchers and heard about their work on understanding antimicrobial resistance, food-bourne pathogens and the importance the gut microbiome plays in shaping our health. Both the Minister and Sir Mark talked about the important place that multidisciplinary institutes have in the UK’s research and innovation ecosystem and recognised the unique aspects of the Quadram Institute, bringing together fundamental bioscience research on food and health with clinical endoscopy services. A personal moment for me during the visit was being interviewed for BBC Look East – a programme I grew up with and one that I had never imagined I would appear on! […]