Policy



Guest post by Emily James

On Wednesday 30th October, I attended the CaSE debate, hosted at the Royal Society. David Willetts (minister for universities and science), Julian Huppert (MP for Cambridge) and the freshly-appointed Liam Byrne (shadow minister for universities, science and skills) sat in good position to debate the future direction of science and engineering in the UK. The BBC’s Pallab Ghosh led the discussion, with pre-selected questions from the audience.

David Willetts, Liam Byrne & Julian Huppert at the CaSE debate (C) The Royal Society/Big T images

I couldn’t help but notice that despite the name of the event, there was a slight lack of hearty debate. My own desires for things to get a bit heated were met with held tongues – I blame the run up to the 2015 general election. However, perhaps consensus is not such a bad thing if you consider the cross-party agreements made on policies that act favourably on STEM education and industry. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

There’s no doubt that the evolution of drug-resistant antibacterial is a worrying trend. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) may have taken most of the headlines, but while we’ve been discussing how best to wash our hands in hospital wards, other, more insidious resistant bacteria have come to the fore.

Medical illustration of extended-spectrum β-lactamase – Image courtesy of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

In March, Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer described antimicrobial resistance as posing a ‘catastrophic threat’. And recently, Tom Frieden, Director of the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned ‘If we are not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era … and for some patients and for some microbes, we are already there.’

This month saw the publication of a two key reports: the UK five year antimicrobial resistance strategy 2013 to 2018  published by the Department of Health and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; and the CDC tome Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013. In a little over 140 pages between them they scan the landscape, identifying and, for the first time, classifying the threats posed by antibiotic resistant bacteria. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

We realise that gold means only one thing to most people at the moment (and believe you me Chemistry World towers has been as gripped by the Olympics as everyone else) but we also need to congratulate the University of Edinburgh’s school of chemistry for getting a gold Athena SWAN Charter award. That’s the UK’s top accolade for good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in science, engineering, technology, maths and medicine in higher education. Only two departments in the country have been judged to be gold standard: Edinburgh’s chemistry department and the University of York’s chemistry department (yay chemistry, etc).

This is especially relevant as Lesley Yellowlees, of the University of Edinburgh, begins her term as RSC President, pledging to identify and remove the barriers that prevent women from staying in chemistry. Hopefully more chemistry departments (as well as those in other disciplines) can rise up the ranks. And then, maybe one day, these sorts of awards won’t be needed at all.

Laura Howes

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Giorgio De Faveri is a PhD student in the school of biological and chemical sciences at Queen Mary, University of London

I am not British, my name probably gives that away. I obtained my degree in chemistry in Italy, my home country, and I moved to London for my PhD. It was not an easy decision at the time, leaving friends, family and my old life behind to move to a different country, to a different language; to start everything again from the beginning.

I moved to the UK because I saw more opportunities than I had back home; more funding for research, better career chances and, let me be a bit venal here, better money for my PhD. I can very easily relate with the fear induced by the impending cuts to education and research proposed by the current government, to the possibility of a ‘brain drain’ like the one that has been happening in my country for years.

(more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

On the whole, scientists are probably perceived as a relatively mild-mannered bunch. They chip away at the world’s problems, solving the great questions, many simply because of a love of research. Rarely do they throw their toys out of the pram.

Until now, that is. A storm has been brewing in the UK, and researchers have finally had enough. Fine, criticise peer review. Make research assessments an admin-filled nightmare. Pay them peanuts. But threaten to cut funding for science by as much as 25 per cent, and they ain’t going to sit back and take it.

The results of the government’s comprehensive spending review are due in less than two weeks, and government departments have been warned to prepare for significant budget cuts of up to a quarter.

The scientific seed of rebellion was planted when Jenny Rohn, a cell biologist at University College London, UK, wrote a blog post declaring war: ‘No more Doctor Nice Guy, no more hiding behind our work, no more just taking things lying down like we take everything else in our profession,’ she cried. ‘If they are going to bleed us dry, we might as well try to do something before it’s too late.’ (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

EdMiliband

The UK Labour Party announced its new leader yesterday, with former climate change secretary Ed Miliband pipping his brother David to the post. So do we have any idea whether the new leader of the opposition is a friend of science?

At the RSC’s Parliamentary Links Day in June, he admitted that his Mum had wanted both he and his brother to become scientists, and persuaded them to take A-level physics. ‘I came off rather better from it than [David] did, but neither of us showed any aptitude for science,’ he said.

(more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

shears

Panic seemed to spread on Twitter this afternoon as news spread that the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) was going to cut funding for its public engagement activities. We spoke to the EPSRC earlier this week and this isn’t strictly speaking true.

The kerfuffle stems from this press release issued last week, in which the EPSRC says it is making changes to its public engagement agenda and cancelling the call for its Partnerships for Public Engagement (PPE) scheme this autumn. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

So, our second online poll is well underway, and you are voting overwhelmingly to see more scientists enter the political arena. Does this mean we’ll be seeing more volunteers from the ranks of researchers in the next election?

Here are the results so far:

Yes: 82 per cent – scientists are trained to analyse complex problems and think creatively to find solutions.

No: 7 per cent – politicians have armies of scientific advisers, that’s what they’re there for. What we need to do is persuade the politicians to take notice of what their advisers say.

Doesn’t matter: 11 per cent – enthusiasm and openness to science are more important qualities in a politician than actual scientific qualifications

If you haven’t cast your vote yet, head on over to the Chemistry World homepage and look in the top right hand corner to find the poll.

Happy voting!

Phillip Broadwith

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

The latest Chemistry World online poll

ballot box-election-SCIENCE-120

has gone live this week alongside a comment in this month’s issue.  Michael Brooks – the sole candidate for the Science Party, who was beaten to a seat in Westminster by an MP who believes in homeopathy and medical astrology – asks whether we should be worried about the small number of politicians with a good scientific understanding.

Your choices:

Yes – scientists are trained to analyse complex problems and think creatively to find solutions.

No – politicians have armies of scientific advisers, that’s what they’re there for. What we need to do is persuade the politicians to take notice of what their advisers say.

Doesn’t matter – enthusiasm and openness to science are more important qualities in a politician than actual scientific qualifications

So, head over to the homepage and cast your vote – the poll can be found at the top right of the page and will be running for the next two weeks, with roundups of the results at various stages.

Phillip Broadwith

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

ideas

Last week saw 11 Members of Parliament (MPs) appointed to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. With all the hoohah recently over the amount of scientific expertise in the UK parliament, surely these would be the cream of the scientific crop.

We conducted an admittedly very brief (and unscientific) internet trawl to see if we could find out what kind of scientific interests/credentials these new committee members have, and get an idea of what kind of experience they’ll bring to bear when scrutinising governmental departments’ activities in relation to science and technology.

The highlights of our quick search are below – please do leave a comment at the bottom if you think we’ve missed anything significant. You can also find out how MPs voted on various issues on the They Work for You website. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Next Page »