Being positive about conservation

Opinion piece by Billy Mills, Biology Week intern at the Royal Society of Biology

With the utopian goal of saving the world’s species it is inevitable that nature conservation should be an uphill struggle. Having read the news recently you could be forgiven for thinking of it as an altogether worthless affair.

It was reported this September that over the last 25 years we have lost one-tenth of the world’s wild places. A trend that if allowed to continue could lead to almost no places of true wilderness left on Earth. Closer to home we had the release of the State of Nature report, which stated that one in 10 UK wildlife species is at risk of extinction.

When I heard that an evening of post-Brexit discussion was taking place at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) I anticipated more of the same, an evening hearing about the huge challenges that Brexit poses to UK wildlife conservation. Thankfully I was mistaken. Rather, this event emphasised that the UK scientific community is capable of informing political decisions on the environment and is eager to help. Professor Sue Hartley, President of the British Ecological Society, had a clear message: it is time to mobilise, not to mourn; opportunities to improve on what’s been done so far exist, and this is the time to seize them. Read more »

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A simple guide to project management

By Dr Cliff Collis FRSB, former professional registers and training manager at the Royal Society of Biology, and a specialist in communication for scientists.
Dr Collis is running an Introduction to Project Management Workshop at the RSB on Monday 19th September.

Project management is very different from staff management. Project management needs an eye for detail while not losing the big picture, keeping close to the plan while being ready to change if necessary.  Nothing is more frustrating than a project going awry, but nothing is more rewarding than a project with a successful conclusion.

A project has expected outcomes within specified constrains, e.g. budget and timelines. It involves identifying what must be done, what would be nice to do, what is really unnecessary – you can’t do everything. You must decide how best to achieve success.

All it requires is a little logical and common sense, of the sort used every day to organise our lives. Read more »

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The impact of DNA testing for cancer susceptibility

Shirley Hodgson FRSB is a Professor of Cancer Genetics at St George’s University of London. She will be one of the speakers at the Biology Week 2016 debate on 11th October: The DNA revolution: Can we predict people’s chance of getting cancer? Should we?

Sequencing our genomes will soon become cheap, easy and widespread, so we need to think about how helpful it will be, what the information will be used for, and how it will be interpreted and communicated. There is great excitement about the possibility of using this information to benefit health and develop personalised medicine. How useful will it actually be?

With the 100,000 Genomes study going ahead in the UK, sequencing the entire genomes of about 100,000 individuals with rare genetic conditions or cancer, and also the genomes of their cancers, a huge amount of data will be generated which will need to be analysed carefully.

There are different categories of genetic variants. Firstly there are mutations in genes that definitely cause a particular condition, such as the rare cancer predisposing condition familial adenomatous polyposis, where affected individuals develop many tens to hundreds of polyps in the large bowel, and have a very high risk of developing colon cancer. Individuals with such disorders would usually have been diagnosed clinically, and genetic information would confirm the diagnosis. Read more »

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ESOF 2016: Science as Revolution – A source of inspiration

Carlos Moedas

By Anna Holderbaum, Marie Curie early stage researcher at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast

“In the 21st century, science can no longer be distant to the public” said European Commissioner Carlos Moedas. His visionary speech on Europe’s voyage towards an open global research area was one of my personal highlights during EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2016. He emphasized the important role of the public in scientific debate and data. He also stressed that the European Union will lead the change to open science and open data.

ESOF is not a typical scientific conference and its concept is extraordinary. This year’s 7th ESOF conference was held from 24-27th July in Manchester under the theme Science as Revolution; encouraging delegates to share, debate and challenge cutting-edge scientific and technological innovations in respect of societal challenges. Read more »

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Is bias holding you back?

By Rosalie Ward, trainer for Skill Boosters & Inclusive Learning Ltd. Rosalie, who has produced HR guidance for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, will be leading a course on Unconscious Bias at the RSB on 13 September.

No matter how open-minded we might like to think we are, we’re all victims of our unconscious bias – and this bias exerts a powerful influence on how we assess people and situations. It can lead to poor decisions and missed opportunities and can even shape the entire culture of an organisation. Being able to recognise and challenge our unconscious bias is an essential part of making diversity a reality. Read more »

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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.
Read more »

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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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