Author Archives: Hana Ayoob & Marissa Chazan, British Science Association

Transformations: delving into an alternative side of science

From 18:00 on Tuesday 8 September, Bradford’s independent quarter will transform as part of this year’s British Science Festival. ‘Transformations: North Parade after dark’ promises an evening fusing science, art, music and everything in between.

The evening’s theme of transformations is fitting on many different levels. The North Parade area has undergone a recent revival and a host of new independent venues have opened with the desire to offer something different.

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Assessing the UK’s soil policy

In this International Year of Soils, there is growing recognition of the problems affecting our soils and the need to address those problems for our collective future. Certainly there is widespread concern amongst the soil science community and, I think, growing recognition of the problems amongst the farming community. But we do not yet have widespread public awareness of the value of soils or effective support amongst policy makers. We are publishing our Living Soil: a call to action report, which we hope will help to change that.

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Focus on Light

The General Assembly of the United Nations has designated 2015 as the International Year of Light (IYL2015), creating a great opportunity to mark some historic milestones and celebrate scientific heroes, from Ibn al-Haytham’s early work on optics in 1015 to Charles Kao’s demonstration in 1965 of the transmission of light in optical fibres. Other anniversaries include the publication of Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism in 1865 and Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1915.

Even more importantly, the Year of Light has set some seriously aspirational goals, which we in the UK are playing our part to pursue.

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How many learned societies does it take to tackle antimicrobial resistance?

In our blog post of February 2014 a colleague and I argued that Learned Societies, acting as ‘boundary organisations’, are in a unique position to bring together diverse groups of researchers around a single issue. In doing so, we can facilitate action.

Since then, that’s exactly what we, and our policy colleagues, have been doing; a collaboration of seven learned societies has recently completed a series of multidisciplinary networking workshops aimed at scientists at all career stages from academia, industry and the public sector. The issue: antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

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Celebrating National Women in Engineering Day

The British automotive industry is booming. Bouncing back from a low point in the early 2000s, Britain is now the base for more manufacturers than any other European country: mass-market manufacturers, premium car-makers, bus builders and dozens of smaller producers, as well as eight of the 11 Formula One teams.  The UK is one of the world centres of motoring research and development, and attracts billions of pounds in foreign investment every year.

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The Data Manifesto: Improving data for policy making, democracy and prosperity

CASE has recently launched important briefings in the run up to the next election including a call for a 10-year plan for government spending on research and development that exceeds growth and aims to reach current investment levels in Germany and the United States. The Financial Times in a recent editorial has also indicated that it would be preferable to invest in the UK’s science base than to have tax cuts, if there is any cash to spare in the next Parliament.

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She figures 2012 – Is progress being made?

Last week She Figures for 2012 were released by the European Commission. Published every three years, they provide a wealth of data on the gender breakdown at different levels, and in different sectors, within research and innovation. The numbers bring mixed news, with hints of progress largely obscured by the depressing reality of the widespread underrepresentation of women in research, particularly in STEM fields.

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What’s driving the UK’s innovation system?

Yesterday CaSE attended a Parliamentary debate at Portcullis House, looking at the “key drivers of the UK’s innovation system”. While the question framed at the outset was “Which contributes more to British innovation, research tax credits or universities?”, the discussion rapidly took a different angle, focusing instead on how best to incentivise innovation across all research environments – from large companies to research laboratories, recognising that each plays a different role in driving innovation.

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Where now for UK pharma?

The pharmaceutical industry (Pharma) has made important contributions to quality of life, longevity, economic growth and education at all levels, and is a key component of the government’s growth strategy. For decades, the UK had been a world leader in medicines discovery and research with at least 10 of the top-selling drugs worldwide (>$1bn annual sales at peak) having UK-trained PhD organic chemists as named inventors. Read More »

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Industry calls for Triple Science

Today, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) appealed for all young people who show an aptitude for science by the age of 14 to be automatically registered for Triple Science.

At a time when the economy is attempting to repair and is preparing for growth, there is a distinct need for people with STEM skills. However, 40% of companies are pointing out that it is increasingly difficult to find these people. Read More »

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Preserving a Scottish science and engineering legacy

We need a Science Minister in Scotland. Science and engineering has an impact, and is affected by a huge range of government activities – so a failure to adequately represent them could lead to Scotland falling behind in the global high-tech race.

Scotland has an immensely rich history in science and technology innovation, cultivating figures such as John Logie Baird, inventor of the television and James Maxwell, the distinguished physicist. However, this history needs to be built upon with political support. Read More »

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Do we need a statistics campaign?

Getstats is both the issue and the midwife of a growing national consensus. There is deepening agreement that the UK, and its constituent territories, need a more numerate population …if the economy is to be rebalanced, productivity to increase, families and households to cope with the quantities of modern life and together we are to talk to one another sensibly about risk and probability and so devise lasting policies for climate change, energy and ageing. Read More »

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Joining and Leaving CaSE

Dr Hilary Leevers

As it’s my last day at CaSE, I am going to risk admitting that I did not have a great deal of policy experience when I was offered the job. I was pretty overwhelmed when my first event in January 2007 turned out to be dinner at the House of Lords, but I think it’s quite right that I still get a thrill when I go along to meetings in Westminster.

My background was as a researcher – I had a PhD in developmental psychology and then worked in a neuroscience centre at Rutgers University on cognitive development and learning. On returning to England, although I did a little consultancy work, I spent most of the next five years bringing up my children.

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Higher Education Tuition Fees in Wales

Eight out of ten Welsh universities have had their plans to charge tuition fees at the full rate of £9,000 in 2012/13.  In England, more than a third of universities will be charging all of their fees at the full rate and nearly six-tenths will charge some fees at that rate.

The Welsh Government has committed to providing students who are ordinarily resident in Wales (as well as European Union students in Wales) a non-repayable tuition fee grant covering the cost of any fees that they are charged above £3,465, no matter where in the UK they study.  So Welsh (and EU) students will not themselves have to pay the full £9,000.

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Science Question Time on Impact – Part 2

Following on from yesterday’s blog post about Science Question Time, this is the second installment covering more of the issues discussed at the event.

You can listen to the event in a podcast, downloadable here. Read More »

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Where’s the ‘New College of the Sciences’?

New College of the Sciences?

There’s been a lot of talk about AC Grayling’s the New College of the Humanities.

It’s a useful thought exercise to consider why there hasn’t been a similar ‘New College of the Sciences'; could one be financially viable and, if so, what students might pay for it?

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Science in Stormont

People came from across science and engineering to fill the Long Gallery at Stormont Castle last week, hoping to achieve a new level of political engagement in Northern Ireland.

The event, Science and the Northern Ireland Assembly, organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and cosponsored by CaSE, had cross party support from Basil McCrea MLA, Sue Ramsey MLA and John McCallister MLA.  Several other Members of the Legislative Assembly, including the First Minister, Peter Robinson, and the leader of the Ulster Unionists, Tom Elliot, came by and heard about the importance of science and engineering for Northern Ireland.

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Key STEM Comparisons Across the UK

How do the different nations of the UK fair against each other when it comes to funding science and engineering?

CaSE has written to all the incoming politicians from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland about the importance of science and engineering. We’re sending them our report, Science, Engineering and the Devolved Nations.

That report includes a compelling visualisation, shown below, of different sorts of research or STEM funding (grouped as direct devolved/Westminster spending, and competitive funding from public and private sources), shown by share of UK total for each Nation, and compared to a baseline share of UK population. We struggled to find comparable data for some of these statistics, there’s more information on sources in our background document.

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Welsh Party Commmitments

CaSE Analysis of Core Commitments – Welsh Assembly Elections 2011

CaSE wrote to each of the main political leaders in Wales, asking them to set out their policies on science and engineering ahead of the 2011 Welsh Assembly Elections. All of the parties, bar the Green Party, responded. We have analysed the responses, and taken further detail from the party manifestos, to set out what we think their key commitments on science and engineering are. 

We do not claim that this analysis is definitive, and we have focused on policies affecting science and engineering, rather than their use – this excludes details on (transport, energy, and health infrastructure, for instance. We would therefore recommend that you read the party manifestos and letters for a comprehensive policy overview.

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Science, Engineering and the Devolved Nations

This report was produced in the run-up to the devolved elections of May2011. It makes a series of recommendations for political parties campaigningfor office and for the incoming assemblies and governments. CaSE has alsoproduced recommendations targeted for each of the nations.

Science, Engineering & the Devolved Nations 2011

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