Facilitation: art or science?

Dorothy Nesbit  is the founder of Learning for Life Consulting Ltd. and will be running a one-day introduction to facilitation for the Society of Biology on Friday 26th September. BLOG

Working in the field of science policy, you may know how hard it is to help scientists agree policy. Sometimes, for example, you’re not an expert on the topic being discussed or even an expert facilitator. You may not be in the chair. How do you bring discussions to a successful conclusion?

This week I’m running a one-day introduction to facilitation for the Society of Biology. Facilitating a day on facilitation can evoke anxiety – are my own skills up to par? Participants, too, have shared some of the challenges they face. How do you keep discussions on track, especially when you’re dealing with people more senior or learned than you? How do you make sure everyone has a say? How do you navigate differences of opinion to reach a sound policy decision – on time? Read more »

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Drawing the invisible: the value of scientific entomology and microscopy art

Cath Hodsman is a skilled and widely acknowledged British wildlife artist, specialising in entomology. She is also one of the most technically accomplished and accurate natural history artists, who counts The Natural History Museum, London amongst her many prestigious clients. Cath will be running the Society of Biology’s Anatomical Painting Course in November.cath

Biology and Art – disciplines that are at opposing ends of the academic spectrum. In fact, in certain situations, the two are not only a lot closer than you might think, but they are virtually symbiotic.

I am an artist, but the approach I adopt with my art also makes me a biologist – or an entomologist, to be precise. My passion is insects. To me, they are the most fascinating, diverse, quirky, strong, beautiful group of animals on Earth. In addition, they are the biggest and arguably, the most important group. You could take any group of animals and blast them into outer space and the world would go along fairly happily. Do the same thing to insects and you would have, at best, a huge amount of trouble and, at worst, no world at all. Read more »

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Consultancy work for ecologists – putting sustainable into development

Dr Graham Hopkins is a principal ecologist with The Ecology Consultancy. An entomologist by training and persuasion he has been the lead ecologist on a number of important development projects, including the largest housing scheme ever to gain consent in Norfolk. Graham will be speaking about ecology and consultancy careers at our Life Sciences Careers Conference at the University of Liverpool and Staffordshire University.Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

After a spending much of a three-year postdoc field working in rural Costa Rica my perspectives on applied ecology in the real world had changed. While I enjoy nothing more than catching and studying bugs, for me it had become clear that the real challenge for ecology is to understand how to balance development and prosperity with biodiversity conservation.

As a consultant, much of what I do is for developers: they hire us to help get planning permission, but we also balance this ‘client need’ in the context of planning and environmental law with the wider objectives of trying to get net gains for biodiversity.

Read more »

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What should we eat to save the planet?

Barbara Knowles is senior science policy adviser at the Society of Biology, and loves the landscapes, food and natural treasures created by traditional farming.pigs

Hardly a week goes by without another academic paper telling us to eat less meat, and to intensify agriculture sustainably to feed the growing population, protect biodiversity or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Almost invariably, these calls to save the planet irritate me because not all meat production systems harm the planet, some are an essential part of sustainable mixed farming systems. (I don’t single out this paper for criticism – it’s just the one that came to my attention this week.)

When I read that we should eat less red meat, I want the author to explain the environmental, social, economic, health, welfare and ethical differences between different meat production systems.

Yes, it’s complicated. But it isn’t helpful to over simplify this message. Read more »

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Do you want the ‘best job in the world’? Consider science teaching

Sue Howarth, a senior lecturer in science education at the University of Worcester, talks about the challenges and joys of teaching, one of the career pathways that will be explored at Life Sciences Careers Conferences.Sue Howarth

I’ve been a science and biology teacher for most of my career and I’ve trained many graduates to become science teachers, so I’ve been there and got the t-shirt.

Teaching can be the #bestjobintheworld (check this hashtag on Twitter and see how often teachers use it) as it brings numerous rewards.

You get to influence young people and correct misconceptions, there will be many ways for you to engage in CPD (continuing professional development), which gives great opportunities to work with associations, such as the ASE, Society of Biology, and the Royal Society of Chemistry, in addition to using Twitter, blogs and teachmeets to find out more about teaching.

Even as a trainee, you are likely to help look after a tutor group and engage in a pastoral role. This can be fun, as you can be involved with fund-raising for charity, celebrating birthdays and encouraging participation in National Science and Engineering Week across whole year groups. Read more »

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The end of plagues?

John Rhodes, immunologist and author of a new book about Edward Jenner and vaccination, The End of Plagues: The Global Battle Against Infectious Disease, pays tribute to Jenner. Jenner won a place in our online poll in June to find the top ten biologists who had changed the world as part of our hertiage focused project, Biology: Changing the World.GENERAL SMALLPOX

Vaccination has become the most successful medical measure of all time, ridding the world of smallpox and transforming the health prospects of every child in affluent nations for the last century. But it all  began in the study of a modest country doctor in rural Gloucestershire in 1796. When Edward Jenner vaccinated eight year old James Phipps with cowpox to protect him against smallpox, he was putting into practice insights into the nature of infectious disease that were truly remarkable for his time. Read more »

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Changing the world

Barbara Knowles is senior science policy adviser at the Society of Biology and compiles its science policy newsletter. She also volunteers for an NGO in Transylvania which focuses on conserving and understanding biodiversity, landscape and high nature value farming.spring view from ground

Scientists working in biodiversity conservation and sustainability science go through stages of despair and recovery while they struggle to see how their work can have a positive impact on the world, according to Professor Joern Fischer in an insightful blog, What’s the point?

I recognize these stages at every phase of my career in research, science communication and science policy, and especially now that I’m also doing voluntary work which specifically aims to protect biodiversity in the face of multiple forces that work against this goal. I’m only one person in 7 billion but I’d still like to change the world, or at least part of it. Read more »

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Intellectual property law – an exciting bioscience career away from the bench

Simon Bradbury is a patent attorney at Appleyard Lees specialising in biotechnology and genetics. Simon will be speaking about careers in intellectual property law at our Life Sciences Careers Conference at the Royal Veterinary College London.Simon Bradbury (200x200)

Have you ever thought about progressing a scientific career, away from the laboratory, in a more commercial or legal setting?

Perhaps you are already destined for a different scientific career early on?

One of the “out of the lab” career options is within intellectual property law.  It might not sound very science-related to you now but bear with me.  What is actually hidden behind this rather grand title is a niche area of commercial law that requires just the right blend of science and legal knowledge to help individuals, universities and companies protect the fruits of their creativity.  Generally speaking, intellectual property covers inventions, designs, trade marks and copyright and there are a wide range of biological inventions which need patenting, from new biologic therapies, screening assays, transgenic plants through to biomedical devices. Read more »

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Urban rust fungi: investigating a curious plant parasite

James Iremonger is a third year microbiology student at Heriot Watt University and is currently undertaking a summer mycology project funded by the BSPP. james iremonger

I’ve just finished my first week studying rust fungi with Dr. Stephan Helfer, a senior scientist and mycologist at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (RBGE). We have been working in the Cryptogam unit, situated next door to the Herbarium, which hosts nearly three million specimens of plants and fungi!

Our project aims to investigate the distribution, pathology and species diversity of pathogenic rust fungi in an urban environment (Edinburgh). Our hope is to gather enough data to provide a useful picture of the distribution of rusts, as well as some of the variation in susceptibility between trees and woody hosts, which can be revisited and developed in future research. We’ve been lucky enough to secure funding from the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) to run the project over the next 7 weeks. Read more »

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