Welcome to the Genomics Forum blog

Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Monday, 20 December 2010

A Townhall Meeting in the Global Townhall

After a successful ESRC Genomics Network conference in Pairs, Prof Steve Yearley, Genomics Forum blogs on the Closing debate – How to Deliver the promise: Where to next?

The closing session of the conference was advertised as a townhall-style meeting, based on the US tradition of public meetings in which politicians and other public figures have to answer to remarks from the floor with no prior warning and no scripted questions. In the US these meetings conjure up the idea of a politician with their jacket off, sleeves rolled up, engaging ferociously with the audience.

Instead of President Obama or the Tea Party, we had four of our own public figures: Dr Gerardo Jiménez-Sánchez, chair of the OECD’s Working Party on Biotechnology; Rick Johnson, CEO of Global Helix LLC from the USA and a key figure in the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to OECD; Prof Joyce Tait, Scientific Advisor to Innogen; and Prof John Dupre, Director of Egenis. The session was energetically chaired by the OECD’s Iain Gillespie and, in true townhall style, there was no shortage of comments from the audience and some real clashes between speakers’ views.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Clear skies, cacti and collaborations

I’m back in blustery Edinburgh after a 3-week visit to the Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS) at Arizona State University -- and what an excellent sojourn it was. (Thanks everyone!) The idea for this trip first came about at the 4S conference dinner last year when Jane Calvert and I bumped into our old Edinburgh colleague Matt Harsh, who is now a researcher at CNS. In swapping news and research ideas, it seemed to us that there were several points of overlap between our respective centres. So we applied for a small ESRC–SSRC grant to support a visit to CNS, and fortunately received funding to cross the pond this October.

Monday, 1 November 2010

The problem with "heritability"

by David Shenk - Genomics Forum Visiting Fellow August 2010

I want to extend my deep appreciation to the Genomics Forum for hosting me as a visiting fellow in August. In my all-too-brief stay, I interacted with some great minds, and was very much impressed with the Forum's mission to improve the understanding of genetics among the general public. My work in my recent book The Genius in All of Us nicely intersects with that mission.

At the Forum, I was very glad to spend some time with Dr. Wendy Johnson from the University of Edinburgh's Department of Psychology. Dr. Johnson has written some of the most articulate work I've come across about the meaning and limitations of so-called "heritability" studies on intelligence.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Party time - the sequel

By Claire Packman – Egenis Communications Officer

The last of this season’s party political conferences was the Conservative conference, which took place in Birmingham and it was my turn to help in running the EGN fringe event.

Security, as Toni has already mentioned in her blog post, was extremely tight, and I felt pretty self-conscious carrying the case containing the EGN banner down Broad Street, which was lined with barriers, turnstiles and police. Everyone was charming, though, and security staff laughed and joked even as they frisked me for hidden newsletters and flyers – oh, apparently that isn’t what they were looking for.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

It’s Party Time

By Toni Freitas - Genomics Forum Events Manager 

The political party conferences are grabbing headlines on a daily basis, and only if you have been hiding under a rock or sunning yourself on some remote beach would you not know of the buzz these events have created in the media and in politics.

It was exciting for me to be involved in a small part of these events.  For the first time, the ESRC Genomics Network organised fringe events at the Green, Liberal Democrat, Labour, and Conservative party conferences (see Christine’s blog) and the Forum website for more.  Each event has a different topic up for discussion, and I got to attend the Green Party conference on 13 September and the Liberal Democrats conference on 21 September.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Genomics Forum Poetry Competition - update from Pippa Goldschmidt

This is truly an international poetry competition…

So far we’ve received about a hundred entries for the Genomics Forum poetry competition, and entries have come in from all over the world; from Uganda, Greece, New Zealand, USA, Malta, South Africa, Germany, Egypt, Australia…

This is terrifically exciting. One of the purposes of the competition is to get writers and readers of poetry to think about how an emerging understanding of genetics impacts on the way we see ourselves.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Getting our hands dirty

For nearly a year I’ve been planning the Genomics Network’s involvement in the Party Conferences – Green Party, Liberal Democrats, Labour and Conservatives. I’m delighted to see this project coming to fruition with all four fringe events taking place in the next six weeks.

Getting the Network involved in the Party Conferences has been a personal goal for me since coming into post as the Forum’s Policy Research Fellow just over two years ago. Before joining the Forum I worked as a parliamentary researcher and political campaigner in Australia, as well as for a time in government policymaking. I strongly believe that influencing political parties is crucial if the Network is to make an impact on UK government policy across the full range of issues we work on – from agriculture, to pharmaceuticals, to bio-terrorism.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Teaching Synthetic Biology

Summertime is a busy time for synthetic biology. One of the core activities in this rapidly growing field is an annual undergraduate competition known as iGEM (the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition). For a 10-week period over the summer, teams of students work together to design, build and test biological systems using Standard Biological Parts (called ‘BioBricks’). The teams are highly interdisciplinary, usually involving engineers, biologists, and bioinformaticians. Over the past couple of years, sociologists and designers have also joined some of the teams — with some interesting and creative results (see e.g. http://www.echromi.com/).

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Gengage Annual Conference

The Second Annual Gengage Conference - New frontiers in teaching genetics – provided an opportunity for training and shared learning around public engagement and healthcare genetics in Scotland. Over 100 delegates, including biology teachers, upper year students and Gengage members, gathered at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, University of Edinburgh, on 15 June 2010 for a day of talks and interactive workshops.

The plenary presentations addressed current and future trends in genetics, including the effects genes have on our health; the development of a treatment for Pompe disease, recently fictionalised in the Harrison Ford film, Extraordinary Measures; and the implications of technological developments for the patient attending a genetic clinic.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Complimentary tickets available for Edinburgh Book Festival

For the fifth year running, the ESRC Genomics Forum is delighted to be sponsoring a series of events at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, taking place from 14 to 30 August 2010.

The Forum will have three events at the festival:

‘Are Friends Electric?’ (in association with the Skinny listings magazine)
Sunday 15 August, RBS Corner Theatre, 6pm

‘Can We All Be Geniuses?’
Thursday 19 August, Highland Park Spiegeltent, 7pm

‘Harder, better, faster, stronger?’
Saturday 28 August, Highland Park Spiegeltent, 7pm

The Forum has complimentary tickets available for all its events, so please contact info@genomicsnetwork.ac.uk to make your request of up to 2 tickets per discussion, maximum 4 tickets per person. Tickets are allocated on a first come first served basis.