This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer
I attended ESOF (the Euroscience Open Forum) on Friday, in the fair city of Dublin. I took a lot away from it (not least that riding a Vespa to Gatwick isn’t a very good idea). As I’m shortly to take the best part of three weeks off for the Olympics, I will have plenty of food for thought, particularly on careers, on which I attended a number of sessions.
ESOF is a huge, biennial behemoth (the next one will be held in Copenhagen) but in a good way – I was very impressed. On Friday, the sessions ran from 8:00 to 18:30, with around ten parallel sessions at a time and no designated breaks (I took the opportunity of a Bob Geldof keynote to duck out and get a sandwich). The UK is perhaps not as engaged in the European science ideal as other countries, but on first reflection, I noted that many of the discussions were similar to those going on in the UK. Here are my scribbles from Máire Geoghegan-Quinn’s keynote speech, the current European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science (excuse the roughness):
- Politicians should deploy the scientific method whenever possible, need to remind of that
- Science vital for future – and intellectual inquiry will always explore most profound ideas
- Higgs – excitement across all ages, groups and countries
- Challenge-driven research important, but curiosity-driven research leads to great discoveries – silicon chips (Bohr), WWW
- Challenge-driven research also brings fundamental benefits – e.g. aero wings and fluid dynamics
- Horizon 2020 – not everyone happy with large settlement, so keep making the case
- ERA – single market for ideas in Europe – increased competition and cooperation between member states (existing example of CERN). Goes live soon. Another important strand is Open Access. Need everyone to line up behind ERA – will deliver science excellence for Europe. Will rely on political will and trust
- March of progress will rely on centrality of science and public trust – must communicate well e.g. on synthetic biology (the same day, ‘A synthetic biology roadmap for the UK‘ was published)
- Thriving intersectoral ecosystem is necessary for solving problems
- Already examples of successful collaborations and things going on in background – Grand Challenges a good and relatively cheap way of stimulating it
- DARPA – $1m for driverless car. Led to many partnerships
- Human Genome Project – for each $ spent, $140 generated
- Open access will help collaboration. People cannot always be co-located, but could be huge enabling factor – individuals, poorer countries, SMEs – which then pump money back into local community – more tax – more research funding…
- Should we be aiming to get tangible outputs back from publicly funded research?
- We must support both forms of research. This is where ideal spin-off situation arises
- Can’t aim to capitalise on specific things before know what outcomes will be.
Elsewhere, I heard some interesting tips from Dr Silvia Giordani from Trinity College Dublin on careers:
- “Change is good… Being crazy is rewarded in the end.”
- “Learn as much as you can early, and you can put it together later.”
- “Network, network, network!”
Peer review guide launched
The previous day, Sense About Science launched their ‘Peer Review: The nuts and bolts’ guide at the conference. Despite the quickening evolution of the publishing landscape, peer review – as I heard at a recent(ish) meeting of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee – remains the gold standard for determining the soundness of scientific papers, and misconceptions (particularly about open access journals) can be damaging.
The guide was produced by Sense About Science’s Voice of Young Science network, and provides a quick reference how peer-review works and how to do it. Helpfully, it features guidance from both sides of the fence – both editors and scientists at different stages of their careers, as well as other observers such as James Randerson from the Guardian. It is definitely recommended reading, although it acknowledges that formal training in the art of reviewing is variable in amount and availability.
If you were at ESOF too, let me know!
Peer Review: The nuts and bolts (PDF): http://www.senseaboutscience.org/data/files/resources/99/Peer-review_The-nuts-and-bolts.pdf
Further reading (Science Careers blog): Become a Reviewer: Advancing and Contributing in the Scientific Establishment
This post first appeared at the Society of Biology’s blog and was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer
Is has been a very busy couple of weeks for openness. First there was the Government-commissioned Finch Group report on open access to research publications. Then there was the Royal Society report ‘Science as an open enterprise’. And on Wednesday, the libel reform campaign for the freedom of individuals to conduct open and robust debate was stepped up a notch at an event in Parliament.
A stellar line-up – amongst them Professor Brian Cox, Dara Ó Briain and MPs from the three main parties – gathered in Committee Room 11 to speak about what is missing from the defamation bill which is currently being drafted. Chief amongst the concerns of the community is the lack of a public interest defence, which would protect individuals and NGOs from being sued for making statements in the public interest.
There have been a number of high profile cases of libel involving scientists. A number of these individuals – Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh, Stuart Jones and Peter Wilmshurst were in attendance (click the names for details of the cases brought against them). All were sued for trying to expose bogus claims which could pose public health risks.
At the event on Wednesday, Dave Gorman – one of the high-profile backers of the campaign – said that the current laws provide rich people with a way to put poor people “all in”. Rob Flello MP and Wilmshurst agreed that in its current form, the new bill will would make “no difference”, and David Davis MP called for more pressure to be put on backbench MPs, as this would influence the coalition. Jones, who is being sued for trying to expose dangerous medical advice, said that the threat of libel is “paralysing” and that he would be afraid to speak out again until the a public interest defence is in place. What is clear then, is that the campaign must go on.
The Libel Reform Campaign was founded by Index on Censorship, English PEN and Sense About Science in December 2009. You can read more about all the changes being campaigned for in this briefing, sign the petition for libel reform here and join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #libelreform.
This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer
It’s an exciting time in policy and public affairs at the Biochemical Society (I always feel as though ‘Policy Officer’ isn’t quite inclusive enough as my job title). A lot is going on! Here’s a quick run-down of our upcoming activities…
The Society has reserved six spaces at ‘Voice of the Future 2012‘ – an opportunity for young scientists to put their science policy related questions to the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP; Shadow Minister for Innovation and Science, Chi Onwurah MP; and members of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science & Technology. The event will be held on Wednesday 14 March at the House of Commons and has been organised by the Society of Biology, with the support of several organisations including ourselves.
The next Science Question Time – one of our regular collaborations with the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Dr Alice Bell – will focus on the Nuclear Debate and be held on Thursday 15 March at the Institute of Physics, London. Further details on the event, including how to submit questions and sign up, are available on the Science Question Time website.
Talkfest is back too, with an event on ‘Sounds of Science’ to be held on Wednesday 29 February at our Charles Darwin House base. You can listen to past Science Question Time and Talkfest events on our new Podcasts page. And, as always, we have Policy Lunchbox events lined up, with an announcement of May’s event expected soon.
The deadline for the Gender Equality in Science Grant Scheme is at the end of next month, which should give us some interesting and exciting projects to fund ahead of next year’s 100th anniversary of the Society admitting female members.
Sense About Science are holding a ‘Standing up for Science’ media workshop in Manchester on Friday 23 March. As partners, the Society has been assigned five priority places for our early career researchers.
The Society is partnering with the Society for Experimental Biology and the British Ecological Society to organize a unique bioscience communication training workshop for doctoral research students and postdoctoral research staff. The workshop, to be held in London on 7 June, will enhance participants’ skills and help to demonstrate the impact and benefits of their research. Further announcements will be made as we finalise the plans.
We’re also looking ahead to responding to the Higher Education Commission inquiry examining the future of postgraduate education, and thinking about our activities for the years ahead, now that my feet are well and truly under the desk. Watch this space!
**Five priority places at Manchester workshop for Biochemical Society members**
Sense About Science are holding a Standing up for Science media workshop in Manchester on Friday 23 March 2012. As partners, the Biochemical Society has been assigned five priority places for our early career researchers.
The workshops are free and are aimed at PhD students, postdocs or equivalent in a first job, as part of the Voice of Young Science programme. The Manchester event will take place at the University of Manchester and is open to early career researchers in all sciences, engineering and medicine.
Details and applications
During the workshop, science-related controversies in media reporting with practical guidance and tips for how to deal with the media will be discussed. Please see this flyer for further details.
To apply, send a CV and covering letter explaining your reasons for applying and stating your affiliation with the Biochemical Society (to indicate your eligibility for one of our priority places) to Victoria Murphy at email@example.com. Applications close on Friday 9 March.