Bacteria, scientists and stewardship

Bacteria have fascinated scientists for centuries and still do. One of the first to see bacteria under the microscope was “probably the Dutch naturalist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who in 1683 described some animalcules, as they were then called, in water, saliva, and other substances” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). A modern understanding of bacteria developed in the 19th century. Ferdinand …

CRISPR, unicorns and responsible language use

I was looking through my twitter timeline on 12 June, when I came cross a tweet by Dietram Scheufele which said “’bend nature to our will.’ #CRISPR frame in new #Doudna book might resonate differently across audiences […] #scicomm”. The tweet made reference to an article by Sharon Begley in STAT News about Jennifer Doudna’s new book, co-authored with Samuel Sternberg, A …

SBRC symposium: Synbio, metaphors and responsibility

On Monday this week (22 May, 2017) our Synthetic Biology Research Centre symposium on metaphors, synthetic biology and responsibility took place at the East Midlands Conference Centre at the University of Nottingham. The weather was marvellous and showed off University Park in all is spring glory. We started with a pre-conference dinner which, in a way, …

Synthetic Biology, Metaphors and Responsibility

Nottingham Synthetic Biology Research Centre Symposium: Title: Metaphors, Synthetic Biology and Responsibility Time: Monday, 22 May 2017 Place: East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham Event information and booking Overview Metaphors are not just decorative rhetorical devices that make speech pretty. They are fundamental linguistic and cognitive tools for thinking about the world and acting …

Hybrids and chimeras: Mythology, history and science

Last week two papers were published about human and other chimeras, one in Cell on ‘Interspecies chimerism with mammalian pluripotent stem cells’ and one in Nature entitled ‘Interspecies organogenesis generates autologous functional islets’. The first one caused a bit of a stir in the newspapers. About 70 newspaper articles covered this potential scientific breakthrough in All …

Making Science Public: 2016 blog round-up

This has been a weird and momentous year. For me personally and, even more so, for the world. In June this year we celebrated the almost end of the Making Science Public programme, which I directed between 2012 and 2016. At the end of September I retired, after working for more than 25 years at the University …

Origins of life; origins of synthetic biology

I was sitting on a train to London the other day reading a fascinating article on the early history of synthetic biology. In this post I just want to share some interesting insights I gleaned from that paper, as it’s always a good thing to know a bit more about the history of a field …

Meanings of RRI: The missing link between theory and practice

This is a guest post by Alasdair Taylor, Industry Programme Manager at The Royal Society, formerly a research chemist at the University of Nottingham. This blog post is based on the author’s article (co-authored with Sarah Hartley and Warren Pearce), ‘Against the tide of depoliticisation: The politics of research governance’, published open access in Policy & Politics. …

The Carbon Neutral Lab: Science, culture, values

This week we held our yearly Synthetic Biology Research Centre (SBRC) Strategic Advisory Board Meeting. The meeting took place in the Carbon Neutral Laboratory which houses the Centre for Sustainable Chemistry. This building has become quite famous because it burned down last year, was rebuilt and opened this year. I should say from the outset …