Science technicians: an invisible workforce?

By Ian Selmes RSci MRSB

I have been a technician for 44 years. Thirty seven of these have been spent working in microbiology laboratories in four departments in three universities: London, Oxford, and now Newcastle.

Science is a dynamic process. Technicians need to update their skills if they are not to erode and eventually become redundant over time. An example of this is the evolution of DNA sequencing over the last 25 years.

I first started sequencing DNA in 1990 using the existing Sanger method. Every aspect of this method was labour intensive from preparing the shotgun DNA libraries, running, fixing, and developing the gels, then digitising the data into the computer and using the first generation Staden computer programs to put the contiguous sequence together. It took two of us nine months to sequence 21.8kb of the major strain of Variola virus (smallpox). Read more »

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Bees are a political issue

Dr Barbara Knowles MBE FRSB is senior science policy adviser at the Royal Society of Biology, and an active conservation volunteer working to protect biodiversity in farmed landscapes. These are her views, not necessarily those of the Society.

Bees and neonic insecticides are in the news again as the Secretary of State for Defra decided last week to lift an EU ban on the chemicals. A limited number of farms will now be allowed to use the banned pesticides on oilseed rape to kill the cabbage stem flea beetle.

Defra said: “Based on the evidence, we have followed the advice of the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides and our Chief Scientist that a limited emergency authorization of two pesticides requested by farmers should be granted in areas where oil rape crops are at greatest risk of pest damage.” Read more »

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Science Fact for Fiction

Helen Pennington, a doctoral training student at Imperial College London, discusses the role of science in science fiction.

Science fiction has repeatedly predicted scientific, technological or financial advances. For example, Edward Bellamy predicted the use of universal credit and credit cards in the 1888 novel Looking Backward; and Jules Verne described many of the aspects involved in a lunar landing in From the Earth to the Moon (1865). Authors often do a significant amount research: reading papers, books and articles, and talking to experts in the field. This is just as true for science fiction as for other genres. Read more »

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Research, industry and policy join forces to tackle antimicrobial resistance

By Gabriele Butkute, science policy assistant at the Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society

UODIf we fail to act on AMR then an additional 10 million lives would be lost each year to drug-resistant strains of malaria, HIV, TB, and certain bacterial infections by 2050, at a cost to the world economy of 100 trillion USD (O’Neill, 2015).

To enable collaboration in tackling this issue the Learned Society Partnership on Antimicrobial Resistance (LeSPAR) recently organised a series of three networking workshops on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), in London, Dundee and Nottingham, which brought together a wide range of researchers at all career stages, industry representatives and policymakers.

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Science should not be a niche area for politicians… and vice versa!

zselfby Zoe Self, postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Veterinary College

While I was delighted to be invited by the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) to attend the Society of Biology’s Parliamentary Links Day, I must admit I was a little nervous, not so much for the prestige of the occasion but for my ignorance regarding politics. I tend to pay relatively little attention. I know that I should listen, as the decisions made influence my future career, but until now I’ve allowed politics to be a ‘black box’ that I do not open. I have to say that #LinksDay2015 changed that for me. Read more »

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Links Day 2015 Keynote Speakers

BIGBENParliamentary Links Day is an annual event organised in Parliament by the Society of Biology on behalf of the science community, which aims to strengthen dialogue between scientists and politicians.

Watch the speeches by: Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science; Nicola Blackwood MP, chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee; and Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President Elect of The Royal Society… Read more »

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Capturing Biology in Action

Billy Clapham is a zoology student at the University of Sheffield and won the Society’s amateur photography competition last year.

Photography is a fantastic medium to explore and reveal the beauty of the natural world in all its forms. But beautiful photographs of animals and plants from all around the world, while no less special, are almost ten a penny these days, and making your own photos stand out can be difficult. One thing that can elevate a pretty picture into something more special is a photograph’s ability to tell a story, something that the Society of Biology’s photography competition lends itself to perfectly.

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Can Eating Insects Save the World?

DIANEBy Diane Fresquez, an American journalist living in Brussels. Diane writes for Zester Daily and is the author of ‘A Taste of Molecules: In Search of the Secrets of Flavour’.

At the Brussels airport last week, en route to Glasgow, I struck up a conversation with a young Flemish woman about edible insects, as one does. I was on my way to the Glasgow Science Festival to be a part the Society of Biology’s event, ‘Can Eating Insects Save the World?’ The woman told me about a young daughter of a friend of hers who wanted to buy some edible insects at one of the city’s big grocery stores.

“The vegetable and mealworm spread?” I asked. I had four Green Kow-brand jars, two carrot-based, and two tomato-based, carefully packed in ice in my checked luggage.

“Whole mealworms,” the woman replied. “My friend’s daughter heard about them at school, and was curious to try them.” Read more »

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What role will science play in the new Parliament?

JAMESBy James Borrell, NERC funded PhD student and science policy intern at the Society of Biology

What role will science play in the new parliament? How will new research influence policy? Will science funding increase or continue to decline?

The answers to these questions are elusive, but perhaps the clearest bellwether of the prevailing scientific climate is the annual Parliamentary Links Day. The largest science event in the parliamentary calendar, Links Day is organised by the Society of Biology on behalf of the science and engineering community.

As a NERC funded PhD student on a three month science policy internship, Links Day was a tangible opportunity to see how science and government interact. Read more »

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