Reintroducing the UK Plant Science Federation

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Published on: April 4, 2019

Over the past few weeks the GARNet coordinator, Geraint Parry, has been voted as Chairman of the UK Plant Science Federation (UKPSF), where he will represent the ideas of the GARNet community on this national committee.

So what’s the difference?

During anedotal conversations there is some confusion in the community regarding the difference between GARNet and UKPSF. To clarify:

GARNet is a BBSRC-funded community network that is focused on supporting researchers that are involved in fundamental plant science. These activities include knowledge exchange through online (website and blog) and social media platforms, organisation of meetings and workshops as well as representing the needs of fundamental plant scientists in discussions with the BBSRC or in government consultations on relevant topics, such as gene editing, big data or immigration policy.

GARNet is a member of UKPSF, which has a much broader remit that is currently primarily focused on education and policy. The UKPSF was founded in 2011 with the ambitious aim of bringing together plant scientists across all disciplines, from Arabidopsis to Ecology, in order to provide a unified voice for UK plant science.

Over the subsequent years the management of UKPSF has moved within the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) as a Special Advisory Committee. Therefore any organisation that is a member of RSB has the option of interacting with the UKPSF. Currently there are 21 member organisations that, as originally planned, cross the spectrum of UK plant science and include participants from academia, education, industry, learned societies and publishers. Each member organisation provides input into the advisory board that meets twice yearly whilst more immediate decisions are made by the UKPSF Executive Committee, which meets four times annually. The members of the Executive Commitee are listed here so please contact any of them if you have an issue that you feel needs to be raised. The Chairpersons email is yet contact information for all other members can be easily found online and they will be happy to receive your correspondence.

What is the role of UKPSF?

In its early years UKPSF organised an annual broad-based conference that brought together people with an interest in different areas of plant science who might not ordinarily communicate. However this conference has not taken place over the past few years, due in part to the challenges of finding a place for a very general meeting in an already packed conference and workshop schedule.

With over 18000 members the RSB is the largest society that focuses on all areas of the biological sciences. Therefore the primary role of the UKPSF is to ensure that plant science is represented throughout RSB activities and more generally within the wider public and scientific communities.

Growing the Future

Over the past few years members of UKPSF have interacted with the community to produce the ‘Growing the Future’ report. This important document outlines the exciting potential for UK plant science to tackle many societal challenges over the coming decades through ‘Improving crops and agricultural systems, ‘Plant health and biosecurity’, ‘Plant biotechnology’ and ‘Biodiversity and ecosystems’. This document was introduced at a breakfast reception at the House of Commons on January 29th in an event that included contributions from Stephen Metcalfe MP, Lord Matt Ridley, UKPSF Chair Rick Mumford, Professor Dale Sanders from the John Innes Centre and Professor Belinda Clarke from AgriTech East.

Where now for UKPSF?

Following publication of ‘Growing the Future’ the challenge for UKPSF is to now follow up on the recommendations outlined the document in order to support plant-focused activities at RSB.

Initially the executive are working with RSB to promote plant science in their career-facing activities during Biology Week 2019. Secondly members of the committee are involved in policy discussions on the future of genetic technologies in the UK. This primarily will occur during a ‘Workshop on Genetic Technologies’ on May 10th and the recommendations from this forum will be disseminated through usual Royal Society of Biology channels. In addition UKPSF are working with Celia Knight to promote the undergraduate RSB Plant Health Studentships that are funded through DEFRA, the BSPP, N8 Agrifood and the David Colegrave Foundation.

The UKPSF Chairman is also acting as the National Coordinator for upcoming Fascination of Plants day (FoPD19) on May 18th. If you are organising an event then please communicate it to the National Coordinator.

Future UKPSF activities will primarily rely on funding from RSB so there is limited scope to what can be achieved individually through direct activities of the committee ‘on the ground’. However the significant reach of RSB is extremely useful in promoting the outstanding resources developed by member organisations that aim to develop an educational and public interest in plant science.

Please get in contact with UKPSF if you would like the executive group to suggest any specific activities with which they could be involved.

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  1. quoted on my website says:

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    Reintroducing the UK Plant Science Federation – Weeding the Gems

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