Lord Drayson Continues His PR Campaign for Science

Lord Drayson, British science and technology minister, certainly seems to wear the mantle of cheerleader for British science.  Coming off a debate defending British science journalism with Ben Goldacre in September, and just 7 days after squaring off with shadow science ministers from other parties, Lord Drayson will host a public discussion on the future of U.K. science on 30 November.  It will be hosted by astrophysicist Brian Cox, and the panel includes young researchers and science communicators.

I am a bit skeptical of Lord Drayson in what his ultimate goals are.  A lot of this is in only reading his remarks, rather than seeing video of him in action.  I’m not used to elected officials with major policy responsibilities for science – there aren’t any in the United States.  While there are certainly politics involved in managing research agencies or determining research budgets in the U.S., the people involved here are not as directly accountable to a President or voters in the same way Lord Drayson is to Prime Minister Brown and, if he were not in the House of Lords, the British public.  So I’m not sure if this will be a publicity exercise to show off the next generation of U.K. science and argue that U.K. science has never been stronger (an open question, perhaps), or if there will be a substantive discussion of the challenges facing the country.  The multi-party debate on 23 November may shed some light on how the event on the 30th will happen.

UPDATE November 11 – I’ve edited the post to correct the date for the cross-party debate.  I regret the error.

New Consortium Will Link Researchers and Resources

As part of the stimulus funding awards from the National Institutes of Health, nine universities will collaborate to produce a network to help researchers connect with research resources they might not otherwise know about (H/T The Scientist).  Networking Research Resources Across America, supported by the National Center for Research Resources, covers nine universities of different sizes, student bodies, and missions, so the type of researchers it can cover will be large.  By the end of the two-year grant period each of these nine universities is supposed to be a fully functional member of the network, having access to all of the network’s data.  There should also be a local inventory management system, a federated network across the nine sites, and processes and capacity to add new sites.

What this network could do is make it much easier for researchers to get a hold of reagents, compounds, and other research materials they need and might be relatively difficult to get.  It could conceivably reduce the administrative burden on research labs, which will have a more significant impact (probably) on institutions that aren’t as flush as the top research universities.