The demand for skills development in the molecular biosciences

Derry MercerBy Dr Derry K Mercer, Principal Scientist at Novabiotics Ltd & member of the Biochemical Society Policy Advisory Panel

The UK Government recently published a Green Paper ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ in which the urgent need for developing skills in further/higher education and the workforce was outlined. The document noted that while the UK higher education system was strong, our achievements in basic and technical skills was relatively poor and has led to the lower levels of productivity compared with other advanced economies.

The skills issues were outlined as follows:

  • lack of basic skills;
  • shortage of high-skilled technicians below graduate level;
  • skills shortages in STEM sectors;
  • the need for informed career choices;
  • lack of lifelong learning opportunities.

For anyone working in the molecular biosciences, whether in academia or industry, most of these concerns can hardly have come as a surprise and represents a huge problem for a growing sector that currently generates turnover of over £56 billion per annum. Indeed, the skills and productivity gaps were pointed out in an earlier UK government documentFixing the foundations: Creating a more prosperous nation’ in 2015. Continue reading

Voice of the Future 2017: young scientists question MPs and Ministers

By Dr Andrew Quigley, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Oxford

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Dr Andrew Quigley representing the Biochemical Society at Voice of the Future event . Photo: Royal Society of Biology

“Voice of the Future is a very unusual event” says Dr Stephen Benn, Director of Parliamentary Affairs at the Royal Society of Biology.  There is no event quite like it anywhere else in Parliament, possibly the world.  How often do young representatives of professional bodies get the opportunity to sit in for a Parliamentary Committee and question MPs about science policy issues that matter to them?  But that is exactly the chance that I and 50 other young scientists and engineers were given. Continue reading

Building our Industrial Strategy: Investing in science, research and innovation

By Dr Kelly Davidge, Research and Development Manager at Kirkstall Ltd

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In the Government’s recently published Green Paper on building the UK’s industrial strategy, they recognise the importance of investment in science, research and innovation and have committed to a number of strategies to boost the UK innovation economy. Although the UK has three of the top 10 and 12 of the top 100 world universities, we lag behind other countries when it comes to investment in innovation through research and development (R&D):

  • 1.7% of UK GDP- gross domestic product- is invested in R&D funding, compared with the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average of 2.4%;
  • business investment in R&D is 1% in the UK, but 2% in Germany, 2.5% in Japan and over 3% in South Korea;
  • the UK produces a similar number of spin-off companies to the US but registers fewer patents;
  • none of our universities feature in the top 10 of Reuters Top 100: The World’s Most Innovative Universities – 2016, a list that ranks the educational institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and drive the global economy.

Continue reading

Why I think that the proposal to remove publication portability from REF2021 should be scrapped

By Charlotte Dodson, Research Fellow at Imperial College London

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Charlotte Dodson

“Do we know what’s happening about REF yet?” asked one of the participants at the departmental Principal Investigator (PI) meeting last term. There was a gentle shaking of heads around the table and we moved on. Shortly afterwards I knew the answer: the Stern Review (a UK Government-commissioned independent review into how Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 should be improved for next time) made its recommendations. There is now a consultation by HEFCE and its equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on how best to implement these in REF 2021. Continue reading

New approaches to the antibiotic resistance problem

By Derry K Mercer, Principal Scientist at Novabiotics Ltd & member of the Biochemical Society Policy Advisory Panel

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Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus

From cradle to grave, antimicrobials have become pivotal in safeguarding the overall health of human societies. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to global health today. Recently, at the United Nations, World Heads of State committed to taking a broad, coordinated approach to address the root causes of AMR across multiple sectors, especially human health, animal health and agriculture, only the fourth time that a health issue has been taken up by the UN General Assembly. According to the O’Neill report, it is estimated that 700,000 people die annually from drug resistant infections. In the US alone, more than two million infections a year are caused by bacteria resistant to at least one antibiotic, costing the US health system more than US$20 billion in excess costs annually. Continue reading