SOS: Support Our Scientists – Science is still vital

By Deborah Roebuck MRSB, BBSRC policy fellow at the Royal Society of Biology.

Supporters of Science rallied together at the most recent Science is Vital event, held in London and broadcast live online. Scientists and non-scientists were united in their campaign to promote awareness and highlight the critical importance of upholding a strong UK science base in the light of the upcoming Spending Review.

An impressive line-up, including the likes of Simon Singh, Adam Rutherford and Greg Foot, contributed to a team of prominent campaigners, spanning scientific disciplines across research, broadcasting, policy and the charity sector. Speakers took to the stage, engaging the audience and delivering a dynamic evening of scientific fact, demonstrating the true impact of science and why it is vital. Read more »

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Choosing between ‘life’ or research – survey data shows the outlook is good for returners

By Dr Indrayani Ghangrekar, fellowship advisor at the Daphne Jackson Trust

Currently, academic researchers in science, technology, engineering, and maths (the STEM subjects) face a life of fierce competition for grants from a limited budget resulting in anxiety about career progression. This happens despite the recognition that investing in STEM research is beneficial for the UK’s economy and world standing as a ‘science superpower’.

Adding to career anxiety is that sometimes, even the most well-laid plans can get disrupted by ‘life’ – unplanned events such as ill health, or a loved one requiring care, which can require a career break for men or women. Additionally, many women still have to make a choice between starting a family and having a career. Read more »

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Returners to Bioscience – a neglected pool of talented workers

by Gabriele Butkute, science policy assistant at the Royal Society of Biology

There is a pool of talented workers that is not being fully accessed or acknowledged in our workforce – those who for one reason or another have been out of employment for some time but now wish to work again – the returners. To recognise the talent and raise awareness of the challenges that returners face, we are celebrating the first Returners to Bioscience Week, 9 – 13th November 2015. We have interviewed several returners who now work in a variety of fields, from forestry to virology, to share their experiences, advice and to say that it is quite alright to have a career break.

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Homeopathy – What is it and does it work?

Opinion piece by Professor Nigel Brown FRSB, President of the Microbiology Society.

The principle of homeopathy is that ‘like is treated with like’. The symptoms are treated with high dilutions of a material that would cause those symptoms in large amounts. For example, treatment with magnesium carbonate, known by homeopaths as Magnesia Carbonica, can be used for digestive disorders.

A homeopathic medicine is made by diluting the material 1 in 100 in water or an alcohol-water mixture and shaking violently, then diluting this material a further 1 in 100 and shaking violently, then repeating this typically 30 times. This is known as a 30C extract. This is where I have a problem as a scientist. Read more »

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Podcast: Creating synthetic life

Synthetic biology is a new, intriguing technology that could have a huge impact on humans and our environment. At our Biology Week 2015 debate, chaired by Dr Adam Rutherford, a panel of experts outlined the process of designing and building new life forms and discussed the ethical challenges we will face. What impact could synthetic biology have on everyday life, and how far could we, and should we, take this revolutionary science?

Amelia Perry brings you the highlights of the debate, reaction from audience members, and an interview with Philipp Boeing from UCL on the iGEM competition.

The debate was organised by the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society and hosted by the Royal Institution. Find out more about the debate.

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Podcast: Celebrating great biology books and photography

What are the secrets of taking a great wildlife photograph, writing an entertaining and informative science book, or engaging children with cutting edge research? Amelia Perry spoke to judges and winners at the Royal Society of Biology Annual Awards Ceremony during Biology Week 2015 to find out.

Find out more about our Awards Ceremony and all of our awards and competitions.

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Tackling environmental waste by engineering microbes to clean up after us

Nikolaus Muldal, microbiology graduate from the University of Sheffield, sheds light on the exciting field of synthetic biology and how it might help us clean up our environment.

Imagine the scene: 640 Olympic sized swimming pools overflowing with plastic rubbish. One group of researchers found this to be an unfortunate reality with over four million tonnes of plastic waste littered in our Oceans. These plastics not only harm wildlife but are consumed by fish that then enter the human food chain. Toxic chemicals within the original plastics eventually make their way into our diets. To tackle this growing environmental problem, scientists are exploring new avenues and technologies. Dr Louise Horsfall MRSB is one such scientist making use of the expanding field of synthetic biology. Read more »

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So you want to be a life scientist?

By Amelia Perry, Biology Week Intern at the Royal Society of Biology

An impressive elephant skeleton took centre stage in the middle of the Life Science Careers Conference, surrounded by exhibitors representing careers in all avenues of biology, from teaching, to research, to conservation to science communication and more. The atmosphere at the Royal Veterinary College was that of hustle and bustle with students flooding in, having travelled from all over the UK to find out more about life science careers.

The day included a series of interesting lectures, delivered by professionals working in diverse fields of biology. Brief presentations were followed by lots of time for questions and answers, to provide students with real insights into what potential career paths entail – opening their eyes to the seemingly endless possibilities. Read more »

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Why should we vaccinate our children?

forest004By Professor Nigel Brown FRSB, President of the Microbiology Society.

Since 1998 there has been a lot of debate about the safety of vaccination. This originated with a paper that argued that the triple Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccination in infants is related to autism.  There have also been statements that vaccines contain toxic compounds and that vaccination overloads the child’s immune system.  Such has been the public concern that levels of vaccination have fallen considerably.

These low levels of vaccination have caused problems.  In a group that has not been vaccinated, a disease, such as measles or whooping cough, can spread from child to child quite easily.  However, if most children are vaccinated, the disease is unlikely to spread.  For example, in a class of 40 schoolchildren a 70% vaccination rate means that on average 12 children are not vaccinated and could catch the disease.  A 95% vaccination rate means that only two children are not vaccinated and if one falls ill, there are 11 times fewer opportunities to pass the disease on. Read more »

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