When Ollie met Sci-Policy

By Oliver Summers, Project Research Officer, Government Office for Science

o-summersIn 2012, during the first year of my undergraduate degree, I received an email about an opportunity to question key political figures about science policy in the UK. This was the first Voice of the Future event, and I’ve been hooked on science policy ever since!

I’ve always been interested in science and politics, in fact before deciding to settle on studying biology at university I was considering a politics degree. I always thought it was a binary choice that science and politics were separate, but participating in events such as Voice of the Future revealed this isn’t the case. Continue reading

Post-Brexit science landscape – Parliamentary Links Day 2016

By Dr Aoife Kiely, Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Neurology

Intro panel
From left: Stephen Metcalfe MP, Nicola Blackwood MP, Jo Johnson MP, Dr Stephen Benn and Rt Hon John Bercow MP. Photo: RSB

The morning of the Parliamentary Links Day I woke up nervous. I’m not generally a ‘business formal’ style of scientist so the imposter syndrome fear of standing out, or going wrong loomed large. However, any nerves were dwarfed by my excitement to take part in the event and meet other delegates and find out what plans politicians had to support UK science post-Brexit.  Continue reading

A welcome decision on stem cell funding

The European Commission today announced it will not introduce legislative proposals to restrict funding for research involving stem cells.

We welcome this decision.

The Commission was required to consider the idea, following a European ‘One of Us’ Citizens’ Initiative that sought to ban all financing of activities that presuppose the destruction of human embryos, including stem cell research, within the European Union.

The Biochemical Society was one of more than 80 organisations to sign a Wellcome Trust statement against any such ban.

We signed the statement because we believe that stem cell research continues to be one of the most promising fields of biomedical research and offers the opportunity to greatly improve the health of European citizens. The funding ban proposed would have had a negative impact on research involving human embryos for regenerative medicine, reproductive health and genetic disease.

In its response, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, voiced a similar view: “Member States and the European Parliament agreed to continue funding research in this area for a reason. Embryonic stem cells are unique and offer the potential for life-saving treatments, with clinical trials already underway.”

Our Society recognises that stem cell research can be a controversial area of science. However, the issue has already experienced a robust debate, and the current framework for funding stem cell research, as part of Horizon 2020, was approved in just December last year. This framework allows ground-breaking and important research using all forms of stem cells, subject to it meeting fundamental ethical principles.

The Commission iterated that it would “continue to apply the strict ethical rules and restrictions in place for EU-funded research, including that we will not fund the destruction of embryos”.

Today’s decision is a good decision for science and health. We would like to thank the Wellcome Trust for driving a unified response from scientific bodies, patient groups and industry representatives across Europe. Their excellent work ensured a strong case was made to the Commission for keeping the status quo.

For further information, read:

If you want to know more about stems cells and research, visit our Sciberbrain website. There we lay out the issues and opinions on stem cell research (along with other scientific issues) to help you make an informed decision.

RCUK Policy on Open Access – composite guidance

This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Manager

Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) new open access policy, which comes in to effect in about three weeks’ time on 1 April, has been a source of some confusion. So it is welcome to see that today they published a guidance document and will take requests for further clarity on this over the next fortnight.

The document is available here (PDF).

The notes emphasise that the policy will be reviewed next year – including any significant problems arising, such as on the sustainability of Learned Societies – and that RCUK consider the next five years being a transitional period, with 100% compliance not expected in the short term. It also highlights that authors ought still to retain a great degree of freedom in their choice of where to publish. However, it emphasises throughout that RCUK’s preference is for articles to be published with immediate, gold open access, with as few restrictions on re-use as possible.

Some of the key points to note are:

  • This iteration of the policy does not mandate open access to research data. However, all papers must communicate how any applicable data and other underlying research information can be accessed.
  • The Research Councils plan to increase the funding available for open access over the five-year transitional period.
  • They expect a market for Article Processing Charges (APCs) to develop, with a nudge towards researchers and institutions to note that the REF does not use journal impact factors as an assessment tool.
  • Authors may publish by the green open access route if they wish, as long as the delay (embargo) between publication and open access does not exceed six months, or 12 months for arts, humanities and social sciences. However, during the transition period there is a caveat through which this may be extended:
    • Where researchers do not have access to APC funding for their preferred gold open access journal during the transition, they are encouraged to look at cheaper options in the first instance, followed by a green option with a compliant embargo policy. If there are no feasible options, the paper may be published in a 12 month embargo journal, or 24 months for arts, humanities and social sciences. This PowerPoint slide illustrates this.
    • The exception is biomedicine, as the MRC already mandates embargos of no longer than six months.
  • Where the gold route is used with Research Council funding, the paper must be freely available under a CC BY licence to allow maximum, attributed reuse. Where the green route is used, CC BY is preferred, but CC BY NC is allowable, as are publisher-specific policies that allow text and data mining and support RCUK’s key aims.
  • RCUK grant and fellowship awards which commence after the start date for the revised policy – 1 April 2013 – will not include funding for APCs.

First year of policy: 45% compliance targeted
Second year: 50%
Fifth year: 100%, with 75% delivered through immediate, gold open access and CC BY licencing.

To provide further input, you are invited to email Alexandra Saxon by Wednesday 20 March. Alternatively, you can contribute to the Society of Biology sectoral response by Wednesday 13 March, by emailing me.

This comes shortly after HEFCE published a letter (PDF) which calls for early input to help shape a formal consultation on the role of open access in post-2014 iterations of the Research Excellence Framework. HEFCE will develop the four UK funding bodies’ joint policy and state that they intend to make OA mandatory for submitted outputs. However, they do not intend to state a preference for gold over green open access. One of the questions on which they invite advice is whether it would be feasible to make open access to data a formal requirement too, although they state that while they expect to see progress in this area from REF 2014, they do not expect to make it a formal requirement yet. The deadline for responses to the letter is Monday 25 March. Once again, you can contribute to the Society of Biology sectoral response by Monday 18 March, by emailing me.

Finally, if you’ve made it this far, you may be interested to subscribe to the Society of Biology’s Research Communication Newsletter. The first edition can be found here and to subscribe you can email policy@societyofbiology.org