What next for science after the referendum?

By Micha Hanzel, science policy intern at the Royal Society of Biology and PhD student at King’s College London

Currently, the scientific community in the UK and Europe is faced with a challenge few scientists wanted. The majority of UK voters have decided to leave the European Union, a choice not shared by up to 93% of UK scientists who overwhelmingly viewed EU membership as a positive force. It is hard to argue against the EU’s immense impact on academia: additional funding, opportunities for collaborations, free movement of scientists. All of these benefits are now potentially at risk. Read more »

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Can we give new biotech the green light?

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

The human population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050. There are pressing questions about how to ensure a healthy diet for everyone while preventing overuse of natural resources or poisoning of the land, sea and air. Biotechnology could contribute to achieving sustainability but public perception of it is often linked only with exploitation potential. Could greater visibility of biotech’s green potential effectively communicate the more complex picture and how would this influence attitudes? Read more »

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Watch: Links Day 2016 – Science After the Referendum

BIGBENParliamentary Links Day is an annual event organised in Parliament by the Royal Society of Biology on behalf of the science community, which aims to strengthen dialogue between scientists and politicians. This year it took place on 28th June, just days after the UK voted to leave the EU, and thus explored: Science after the referendum: What next?

Watch the speeches, including Minister for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson MP and the discussions below.
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How working in partnership with students transformed my teaching

By Dr Katharine Hubbard, lecturer in biological sciences, University of Hull, Royal Society of Biology Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year 2016

Most people who teach would say that they value the views of their students, but how many of us would feel comfortable putting our students in the driving seat and getting them to produce our teaching resources, or even redesign course pedagogy? This is the approach I took in my practical class teaching while I was a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

Using ‘students as producers’ is one interpretation of partnership between students and academics, an increasingly important mechanism of improving student engagement and one of the Higher Education Academy’s strategic themes. Crucially, the student partnership approach requires us to change the position of students from passive consumers of information to active participants who have a genuine role in the educational process. My student partnership project involved working with 4 student interns to produce online quizzes and videos to support first year laboratory class teaching. These resources covered topics including photosynthetic electron transport, enzyme assays and spirometry, and have been used by students and lecturers this academic year. Read more »

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STR Trek: the Next Generation

By Dr Lisa Smith, senior lecturer in criminology, University of Leicester and Professor Mark Jobling, professor of genetics, University of Leicester.

Listen to Sir Alec Jeffreys being interviewed by Professor Alison Woollard FRSB at the RSB’s fundraising event in May 2016.

Today, thanks partly to TV’s CSI franchise, everyone is familiar with the DNA profile – super-sensitive, and individually unique. But go back 40 years, and DNA-based forensic analysis did not exist. Instead, there was an industry that analysed not DNA itself, but its products – proteins. It started in 1900 with the discovery, by Karl Landsteiner, of the ABO blood group. He realised that this system could exclude a suspect from depositing a blood-stain at a crime-scene. Given the small number of different types, the average power of exclusion was low, but this increased once enzyme variants in blood were included. Because each variant is inherited independently, the frequencies of types (alleles) for each system could be multiplied, increasing discrimination. Read more »

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The fight against multidrug resistant bacteria

By Arthur Neuberger, PhD student at The University of Cambridge

Being selected to present my research at the House of Commons in London as part of SET for Britain 2016 was both an exceptional honour and a unique opportunity to raise awareness of potentially the biggest threat to human health that our global society faces today: multidrug resistance.

The World Health Organization ranks multidrug resistance as one of the three greatest risks to global human health, the others being climate change and malnutrition. And indeed, if we don’t take action against multidrug resistance now, we might soon be thrown back to a 19th century situation in which basic infections, for instance those contracted in the course of routine surgical procedures, would be lethal in a majority of cases – not to mention the inability to administer some of our most efficacious cancer treatments. Read more »

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Science for society – bringing responsible research to life

By Melanie Smallman, deputy director, UCL Responsible Research Innovation Hub

Sign up for our free Policy Lunchbox on Friday 10th June 2016: What is Responsible Research and Innovation?

Given the power of science and innovation to transform our world, we need to make sure that it works with and for society. But what does this mean in practice? What does it mean for research and researchers?

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a theme that is building momentum across the research community. Indeed, as one of the cross-cutting themes in the European Commission’s Horizon2020 programme, it should be of interested to any researcher aspiring to work on a European funded project. Read more »

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Imitating art imitating life

By Gina Degtyareva, a biology undergraduate at the University of Bristol 

My heart was split between arts and sciences for a long time until I was choosing my A-levels I realised that they can be combined in many ways. One of these ways is wildlife and nature photography. I love this area of photography because I love biology and it enables you to explore and learn about the creatures of the world without leaving your home. Our environment is constantly changing and photography also gives you the chance to capture moments that will never be repeated. Read more »

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What makes a good conservation photograph?

By Davide Gaglio, amateur photographer and student at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

Describing what photography is for me is already a very difficult task. When we narrow the topic to ‘conservation photography’ it becomes even more challenging. Is not easy to judge when a photograph including wildlife or a natural resource is able to convey protection of the environment effectively.

For acclaimed National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore the ‘nature photograph’ shows a butterfly on a pretty flower. The ‘conservation photograph’ shows the same thing, but with a bulldozer coming at it in the background. In agreement with that, I think an image aiming to raise awareness of environmental issues should not only document the issue but must include the right mixture of originality, drama and beauty. Read more »

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