Investment in plant science training

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Published on: October 7, 2014

The planet needs more plant scientists.

As a headline in The Scientist last week, this statement was unambiguously qualified by its ‘Opinion’ prefix. But for the UK plant sciences community it is a dangerous fact: the skills gaps in plant and agricultural sciences expertise and very limited plant science content on undergraduate courses were highlighted in the UKPSF report on the status of UK plant science.

The news that some 375 students will receive PhD training in agriculture and food security over the next five years is therefore very welcome. On Friday, Vince Cable announced the locations of 12 new Doctoral Training Partnerships, funded by a £125 million investment from BBSRC. 1250 PhD students will be trained, of which 30% (375) will be trained specifically in agricultural and food security science, 20% (250) will focus on industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, and 40% (500) on world-class ‘frontier’ bioscience – all areas in which plant science plays a key role. The remaining 10% (125) of students will work within BBSRC’s ‘Bioscience for Health’ theme.

We at GARNet are looking forward to seeing the impacts on plant science, from food security and bioenergy to the as yet unknown, that will come from the hundreds of plant scientists starting their training and careers in the next few years. As every student in the centres will have to do a funded three-month internship working in a different area from their PhD project, it will also be interesting to see how this impact spreads into areas like policy, funding and government over time.

Congratulations to all the organisations involved in the new Centres, lead by Imperial College London, the John Innes Centre, Newcastle University, University College London (not plant science), the University of Bristol, the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, the University of Nottingham, the University of Oxford and the University of Warwick.



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