How can we balance the benefits of carrying out research into infectious pathogens or other biological agents with the potential costs of misuse? Despite the potentially global reach of research and terrorism, different countries have different approaches to dual-use research and biosecurity policy. Is international consensus on this issue likely? Will we be able to dodge potential 'biological bullets' before it's too late? Our international panel presented the biosecurity policy in the US and Europe. For more details about the event, read our news story and visit Policy Lates.
Science and Public Trust was the theme of Parliamentary Links Day 2014. This year speakers explored the importance of effectively engaging UK citizens with science and policy. Further details about the event are on our news story.
The precautionary principle is often described as a “better safe than sorry” approach when an action is suspected as being harmful to humans or the environment, and the scientific evidence for safety is uncertain. Striking a balance between protecting people and the planet while maximising beneficial scientific and economic output isn’t easy, nor is communicating these issues. The precautionary principle is supposed to help – how can we ensure that it does?
For more information visit Policy Lates.
Young scientists quizzed key political figures at VOF 2014 on 19th March in the House of Commons. This event was organised by the Society of Biology and took place during the National Science & Engineering Week. Dr Stephen Benn, the Society's director of parliamentary affairs, describes the importance of Voice of the Future:
"This is a unique event – in no other part of Parliament is the normal select committee format completely reversed so that MPs have to answer questions rather than ask them. It is important that policy makers use reliable evidence in their decisions, and today's young scientists and engineers will be vital for this in the future."
The event was held in the Boothroyd Room, which has heard Prime Ministers as well as eminent scientists and experts give evidence. However, this time the MPs' committee seats were occupied by young scientists and the MPs sat in the witness seats ready to be grilled.
Panel 1: Professor Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Adviser
Panel 2: Members of Parliament on the Science & Technology Select Committee
Panel 3: Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)
Panel 4: Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science
At first glance, algal biofuels seem to be the answer to our impending energy crisis - renewable, 'clean', and with no competition for agricultural land. But with technological hurdles to overcome and EU renewable energy targets looming, will the UK algae biofuel industry bloom or stagnate?
For more information visit Policy Lates.
We ask how to make sure that society benefits from advances in biological research whilst minimizing the risk of misuse. Professor Malcolm Dando FSB chairs the debate between influenza virologist Professor Wendy Barclay, journalist and 'garage scientist' Daniel Grushkin, bioweapons policy consultant Dr Catherine Jefferson, and deputy head of the UN Biological Weapons Convention Implementation Support Unit Dr Piers Millet MSB. For more information, please see our Policy Lates pages.
The 2013 Parliamentary Links Day focused on the theme of Diversity in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths, and explored the under-representation of women, people with disabilities and minority ethnic groups at various stages of the STEM pipeline. Links Day is largest science event on the annual Parliamentary events calendar, and is organised by the Society of Biology on behalf of the science and technology community.
A unique opportunity for young scientists and engineers, including A level students, to question Members of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science & Technology. Read our storify and watch the event on the Parliament website.
Panel 1: Sir John Beddington CMG FRS, Government Chief Scientific Adviser
Panel 2: Members of Parliament on the Select Committee
Panel 3: Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, Professor John Perkins, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of BIS
Panel 4: Shabana Mahmood MP, Shadow Minister for Universities and Science
The SET for BRITAIN competition is designed to support and promote British scientists, engineers and technologists in the early stages of their careers. Many will become Britain's leaders in science and technology, and their work is vital for our economy.
The first in our Policy Lates series, this debate asked whether there should be more scientists in Parliament. Chi Onwurah MP chaired the debate between Dr Jenny Rohn, Dr Evan Harris, Dr Jack Stilgoe and Dr Phillip Lee MP. For more information see our Policy Lates page.
The Society of Biology organised Parliamentary Links Day 2012 on behalf of the scientific community to strengthen dialogue with Parliament, and to provide MPs with a more rounded understanding of the scientific issues we face. This is an annual event that takes place at Westminster, bringing together scientists, learned societies and Members of Parliament. The 2012 theme was 'Science and Sport'.
The Society of Biology and the British Library collaborated to host a TalkScience Event on the inclusion of the 'impact' of scientific research as an element of evaluation for the new Research Excellence Framework.
This panel discussion was chaired by William Cullerne Bown (Founder and Publisher of Research Fortnight) with: Professor Douglas Kell (Chief Executive of the BBSRC), Professor Nick Tyler CBE (Head of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, UCL), Professor Geraint Rees (Director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL) and Chris Hale (Deputy Director of Policy at Universities UK).
More information is available on the British Library TalkScience series.
The Society of Biology hosted a 'Standing up for Science' media workshop in collaboration with Sense About Science. The workshop was attended by 40 early career researchers, who hear from a panel of scientists who have communicated their science through the media, and learn from journalists about how they approach reporting. Dr Gia Arradottir from Rothamsted Research shared her most recent media experience following her and her colleagues' appeal to protesters to not destroy their GM wheat field trial. She was joined on the panel by Professor Malcolm Sperrin and Dr Deirdre Hollingsworth.
Podcast from Dr Rebecca Nesbit, press officer at the Society of Biology. She interviewed panellists to hear their tips on how to get your stories into the news, and how to prepare for interviews with journalists. The speakers included scientists, journalists and press officers, and they were all keen to work together to ensure science is reported accurately and reaches a wide audience. Listen to hear their views!
More about the Sense About Science workshops.
The Natural Capital Initiative organised a workshop to encourage greater interdisciplinary working and knowledge exchange between economists and ecologists, with the goal of informing public policy. The chosen case study theme was sustainable agriculture.
The workshop was chaired by Peter Costigan (Defra), keynote speakers were Professor Ian Bateman (CSERGE, University of East Anglia) and Professor William Sutherland (Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge). Professor Tim Benton (University of Leeds), Dr Salvatore Di Falco (London School of Economics), Professor Charles Godfray (University of Oxford) and Dr Paul Morling (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) were panellists in debate around the most pressing issues for agriculture in the UK.
More information on the Natural Capital Initiative.