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Call for UK bioscience organisations to identify specialist skills that could be lost from the research community

Visit Biosciences Federation website

7 May 2009

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), in coordination with the Biosciences Federation (BSF), is today (7 May) launching a UK-wide consultation to identify niche areas of expertise that are in danger of being lost from the bioscience research community. The results of this consultation will be used to prioritise investment in the future of strategically important and vulnerable areas of expertise.

The UK’s bioscience societies, and industrial trade bodies and associations, are invited to provide evidence regarding specialist areas of expertise about which they have concerns. Importantly, the BBSRC requires evidence of user need for a specific area of research expertise and details of why that skill might be disappearing from the wider research base (i.e. academic, research institutes, or industry). This will enable prioritisation of support for areas that have a vital impact on the UK’s ability to carry out world-class bioscience research.

Dr Celia Caulcott, Director of Innovation and Skills at the BBSRC said: "Whilst the number of subject experts needed in a particular field might not be high, it is important to ensure that the UK is taking steps to maintain its expertise in strategically important areas, as current staff in academia or industry retire. It is clear that in some niche areas there is particular vulnerability to factors such as limited training or career opportunities, or the retirement of existing specialists."

Dr Sue Assinder, Chair of the Biosciences Federation’s Education Committee, said, "We are pleased to be able to work with the BBSRC on this key initiative. The BSF has access to the opinions of a wide range of bioscience organisations and individuals through its membership. The role of the BSF in this project is to draw together the views of its Member Organisations in order to reinforce common themes."

The information collected will be reviewed by BBSRC’s ‘Bioscience Skills and Careers’ panel and used to advise the BBSRC on which areas to prioritise, and where further investment may be needed to secure the future of particularly vulnerable, strategically important areas of specialist expertise.



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

About the Biosciences Federation

The Biosciences Federation is a single authority representing the UK’s biological expertise, providing independent opinion to inform public policy and promoting the advancement of the biosciences. The BSF has committees representing Animal Sciences, Education, Journals, Environment and International Liaison.  Member societies, of which there are over 50, cover the full range of biosciences from physiology and neuroscience, biochemistry and microbiology, to ecology, taxonomy and environmental science.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382