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Cambridge symposium links science and policy

27 September 2012

BBSRC Chief Executive Professor Douglas Kell spoke about the importance of questioning preconceived ideas at the University of Cambridge's annual symposium for biological and life sciences students (SymBLS) on 18 September, which connected students, and their cutting edge research, with policymakers and industry.

The one day symposium, organised by four PhD students from the Babraham Institute, which receives strategic funding from BBSRC, provided a chance for students working in the broad disciplines of biological and life sciences to engage with science, policy and the policy makers themselves. It also provided government and business attendees with an opportunity to connect, and in some cases reconnect, with the exciting research being undertaken by the graduate students at the University.

Image: SymBLS/Nelly Olova
Image: SymBLS/Nelly Olova

"It was great to chat with students and other Government colleagues alike and get back in touch with the pure science," said Tabitha Dale from Defra. "I'm a microbiologist so many of the student talks were right up my street."

The sessions and discussions throughout the day were also an opportunity for government attendees to hear about research that could have particular relevance to policy. For example, research to understand the mechanisms of circadian clocks in plants is of interest to the Department for Transport in ensuring train safety during drivers' night shifts.

"The presentations and the conversations that I had with some of the presenters, the poster designers, and other postgrads attending the event brought home to me the cutting edge nature of the research being done by young research teams in Cambridge, and the passionate enthusiasm they have for their work - immensely impressive. There were also fields of research that I could see had real relevance for government & industry as they develop," said Graham Pendlebury, Director of Greener Transport and International, Department for Transport.

Talking about his role as the head of the BBSRC, Prof. Kell emphasised the importance of questioning preconceived ideas so as not to rely on unsupported established facts - a vital philosophy for both science and policy alike.

Organisers: Nicola Darling, Julian Peat, Harry Armstrong and Lewis Bell


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