Publish or perish: Is the peer review process fit for purpose?

Francesca Soutter, BBSRC policy intern at the Society of Biology and PhD student at the RVC, has been following the often heated discussions around the future of publishing.

The peer review process is often considered as a pillar-stone of excellent science. However, the process first introduced in the 1700s has come under increasing scrutiny with the retraction of a number of high-profile scientific papers. There are concerns that the process is not transparent, can be biased and crucially fails to identify serious flaws and fraudulent data.  This is one part of research culture that is being studied by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Research Project. Read more »

Categories: Policy | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Gulls acting strangely on flying ant day?

Black-headed gull on flying ant dayGulls and other birds are often seen behaving strangely during flying ant season. Rebecca Nesbit (co-ordinator of the flying ant survey) discusses whether this could have anything to do with formic acid.

Following the latest article in the Telegraph on gulls getting drunk on flying ants, it seemed time to share some of my research which never made it into the article. There are many reasons why gulls behaviour can be noticeable and, as I explained last year, they range from formic acid to botulism.

There seem to be conflicting reports of gulls being ‘dozy’ and gulls being ‘boisterous’, which is a flaw in the drunk analogy: alcohol can induce both these behaviours in people, but it’s very unlikely that formic acid would be inducing both in gulls. There are lots of possible explanations for both behaviours.  Read more »

Categories: Nature, Society of Biology | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The benefits of an internship

Ann Tiley, PIPS intern at the Society of Biology, BBSRC PhD studentAnna Tiley, a previous communications and policy intern at the Society of Biology, provides an insight into the highlights from her three month placement.

The opportunity to do a professional internship for PhD students (PIPS) placement at the Society of Biology has been, without a doubt, one of the best parts of my BBSRC-funded PhD so far. The three months whizzed by and I am still surprised at all the things I managed to fit in! Read more »

Categories: Careers, Society of Biology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Sir David Hopwood – ‘designer’ of antibiotics

Gabriele Butkute, events and administrative assistant at the Society of Biology, writes about Sir David Hopwood, a scientist featured in the Biology: Changing the World top ten poll.

Professor Sir David Hopwood, a British geneticist and microbiologist, is helping combat the problem of increasing antibiotic resistance by genetically engineering bacteria to produce novel, ‘designer’ antibiotics.

Ever since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have been one of the most widely used groups of drugs, and this has led to increasing antibiotic resistance. Read more »

Categories: Latest research, Society of Biology | Tags: | Leave a comment

Photography competition: Home, habitats and shelter

The release of these sea turtle hatchlings shows how human intervention can help to improve the survival chances of an endangered species. Sea turtles help maintain sea grass beds and provide nutrients to beach and dune systems.Elspeth Holuding, marketing assistant at the Society of Biology, discusses the Society’s annual photography competition, open to absolutely anyone.

This year, the photography competition theme ‘Home, habitats and shelter’, could inspire you to capture a species in its natural or rare habitat, taking shelter from the elements or could focus on the more molecular level of biology, using a range of microscopy and imaging techniques.

With cameras everywhere in today’s society, it’s increasingly easier for anyone to become a photographer. I wouldn’t call myself much of a photographer, but I will always insist on a group picture at any event to put in my photo album. Read more »

Categories: Nature, Society of Biology | Tags: | Leave a comment

Celebrating our Honorary Fellow Sir David Attenborough

David AttenboroughTo celebrate the place of Sir David Attenborough in the top ten biologists who’ve changed the world, Amy Whetstone, qualifications and skills officer at the Society of Biology, writes about the achievements of the man considered the face and voice of natural history programmes.

There are very few people who are not familiar with the images of a young David Attenborough being inspected by a group of gorillas. Whether you have a particular interest in the dung collecting habits of the burrowing owl, the waggle dance of the honey bee and the mating rituals of lions, or not, chances are you will be familiar with the soothing voice and blue shirt of Sir David Attenborough. Not to mention my personal favourite time when a bat got caught in his hair!

Read more »

Categories: Conservation, Society of Biology | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flying ant day in pictures

Flying ants, courtesy of flying ant survey participant Martin RogersBy Rebecca Nesbit, co-ordinator of the Society of Biology’s flying ant survey

Since the flying ant survey began, every year has brought surprises. In 2014 the surprise is the early appearance of the flying ants, and it will now be interesting to see whether they keep coming throughout the summer.

To celebrate the ants’ arrival, I have collected together some links to information and some photos kindly sent by flying ant survey participants. Thank you to everyone who is submitting records and sending photos and video clips. Keep them coming! Read more »

Categories: Nature, Photography, Society of Biology | Leave a comment

The dose makes the poison

Guest blog from Dr Lauren Tedaldi, project officer at Sense About Science.

Ever seen an advert for a ‘chemical-free’ kitchen cleaner or a ‘100% natural’ shampoo? How about a detox tea? At Sense About Science we notice this sort of thing all the time and we’re sick of it. To counter chemical misconceptions such as ‘You can lead a chemical-free life’ and ‘Manmade is bad, natural is good’ we recently launched a new edition of ‘Making Sense of Chemical Stories’.

The dose makes the poison, Sense About Science, chemicals

Read more »

Categories: Society of Biology | Leave a comment

Species of the week: birch polypore fungus

birch polypore - British Mycological SocietyAs part of National Fungus Day the British Mycological Society is asking people to take part in fungi spotting and let them know if you see the birch polypore. If you would like to hold an event as part of UK Fungus Day on the 12th October (part of Biology Week) please contact

Piptoporus betulinus, or the birch polypore, is a parasitic disease of birch trees. It’s a bracket fungus with a light brown tan upper surface, and underneath are the white pores which produce the spores. When birch polypore infects a tree, it leads to brown rot. Read more »

Categories: Events, Nature, Society of Biology, Species of the week | Tags: , | Leave a comment