Terms of Reference for Policy, Education and Professional Affairs

Recent submissions and responses

Response to the Foresight Healthcare Panel consultation. UKLSC submitted views on supporting science teaching in schools, the need for government openness about societal and ethical issues affecting medical developments, maintaining the UK at the forefront of genome research, and improving the commercialisation of disoveries made in the UK

Into the New Millennium: a consultation found support for a plan to be drawn up for a more unified approach to learned societies' involvement in public affairs and related outreach activities.

Are we realising our potential? Response from UKLSC to the Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry into the impact of the 1993 Science White Paper

Postgraduate Training in the Life Sciences. A report of a Working Party established by the UKLSC
The Working Party made a strong case for improved stipends on the basis of the need for research careers to compete with alternatives in other professions for attracting the best young life sciences graduates. It argued the case for most life sciences PhDs to be 4-year courses, but recommended that Research Councils should introduce a Research Training Grant system. This would allow individual universities to make the important decisions on balancing level of stipend and duration of training with PhD numbers

INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM: Opportunities for the Bioscience Community
A report commissioned by UKLSC and the Institute of Biology concluded that the time is ripe for all organisations within the life sciences to consider ways in which they can work more effectively together on policy and other issues. It presented two options: organisations agreeing to move towards some form of strong Bioscience Federation; or organisations agreeing to collaborate on those generic issues where it can clearly be seen to be sensible to avoid duplication.

BIOSCIENCES: INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM
A letter to all learned societies in the life sciences from the chairmen of UKLSC and the UK National Committee for Microbiology, and the President of the Institute of Biology. The letter presents the argument for moving cautiously towards a strong UK Bioscience Federation and asks whether individual societies share that vision

INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM: members' views
How Biochemical Society members can inform the Society of their views on a possible Bioscience Federation: clicking here also accesses a letter from the Chair of the Executive Committee

RAE 2001: Comments of the Biochemical Society on the draft criteria and working methods of the Biological Sciences (UOA 14) panel
This response emphasised that the Biological Sciences panel must have sufficient breadth of expertise to cover the wide range of subject matter that it was likely to receive, and urged that large departments should be able to sub-divide submissions and to request separate gradings for them

Monthly Reports on Professional Affairs
An update of the Society's activities in this area, and a digest of newspaper cuttings and journal reports dealing with science policy, and science education and funding, will be posted monthly.

Society responds to NIH E-biomed proposal
The NIH recently announced a radical proposal which would set up a pre-print server similar to that for physics at Los Alamos and , further, would provide web space for refereed papers to be posted on the NIH server free of charge. The full text of the proposal can be found at http://www.nih.gov/welcome/director/ebiomed/ebi.htm
The Society has responded recognizing the value of a single searchable depository for life science papers but expressing concern about the potential effect that precipitate radical change might have on the overall ability of all scientists to publish and the impact on the services learned societies provide to science, funded by income from learned society publishing.
The full text of the Society response is at http://www.biochemistry.org/ebiomedresp.htm

Response to the Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into Science and Society
This response acknowledged that there is an inherent public distrust of certain developments in the life sciences. The distrust is compounded by a lack of understanding of what science can and cannot do, by inaccurate media reporting, and by science becoming associated in the public eye with big business and power politics.

UKLSC response to the HEFCE consultation on Learning and teaching: strategy and funding proposals
UKLSC supported much of HEFCE's strategy, but general concern was expressed about how high quality would be determined in the reward system; about consistency; about the administrative work involved in a bidding mechanism; and about the effectiveness of funded projects or subject centres in actually disseminating good practice.

RAE 2001: response to HEFCE on issues for further consultation, from the UK Life Sciences Committee
A majority of UKLSC members supported publishing parts of RAE submissions on the internet on the grounds of openness; supported a minimum proportion of staff having to be submitted in order to gain the highest grades; and considered that the current arrangements for assessing collaborative research are satisfactory.

RAE 2001: undesirability of having separate Biochemistry (UOA 12) and Biological Sciences (UOA 14) units of assessment
As a supplement to the UKLSC response on RAE 2001, the Society argued strongly to HEFCE that the separate Biochemistry UOA should be removed, and the Biological Sciences panel subdivided

Response of the UK Life Sciences Committee to the Consultation on the Research Assessment Exercise This response recommended that the RAE should take a form similar to previous exercises, and that assessment should continue to be based primarily on peer review of past performance. The response stressed the need for more care in the use of bibliometric analysis as a quantitative indicator of research quality.

Survey of current External Examiner practice in Biochemistry. Some notable findings were that 76% of departments and 67% of examiners rejected the concept that external examiners should only be drawn from a limited pool of specially trained individuals, as recommended by Dearing; that in the case of modular courses, 50% of departments and 69% of examiners considered that most of the decisions regarding degree class are made well before the examiners' meeting; and that examiners of modular courses or traditional linear courses considered equally strongly that their role was to monitor both academic standards and the process of assessment.

Survey of Entry Qualifications and Degree Outcome for students who graduated in Biochemistry from UK universities in 1996.
This survey found that A-level remained the predominant entry qualification at both old and new universities, but that HNC/HND has been losing ground at new universities to Access and other qualifications in recent years. Students with Access qualifications appeared to be more successful at old than at new universities, whereas the reverse applied for those with HNC/HND. Sixty four percent of students with A-level as the main entry qualification gained class 1 or 2.1 degrees at old universities compared to 36% at new. Within common A-level points bands students at new universities achieved a higher percentage of good degrees than those at old universities, but the difference between old and new was not pronounced.

Views on the implications of the Dearing report for the structure and funding of university research, presented to the Commons Science and Technology Committee The Society contributed to this document, submitted through the UK Life Sciences Committee. Among other themes, the response welcomed the recommendation for an Advisory Council on national research policy, provided that it is not used as a means of postponing the urgent decisions that are needed to prevent the collapse of the science base. It emphasised the need for a long term programme of renewal of research infrastructure, and recommended that a modified form of the RAE is the most appropriate way of achieving selectivity in funding.The response argued that the dual support funding system should be retained, and additional money made available to Research Councils to enable them to increase payments for indirect costs of grants. It also recommended a continuing review of the special funding requirements of inter-disciplinary research.

Views on the Dearing Report on Higher Education sent to the Commons Education and Employment Select Committee
This response focused on purposes of higher education, quality and standards, the need for a new broad framework of courses to cater for the needs of future researchers, technical staff, and those requiring a more general science training, and on funding issues.

November 1996


The Biochemical Society,
59 Portland Place,
London W1B 1QW;
Tel: 020 7580 5530; Fax: 020 7637 3626;
E-mail: genadmin@biochemistry.org