Celebrating Basic Plant Science

Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: October 1, 2013

Do you know why the government uses taxpayers’ money to fund scientific research with no obvious application to the real world and definitely no short-term gain? Do you think it is valuable to carry out such research? If you’re a scientist, can you explain why your research is important?

At this year’s annual UK Plant Sciences Federation conference, PlantSci 2013, keynote speaker David Baulcombe made his case for the absolute necessity of ‘basic’ plant science research – science done for the sake of curiosity and understanding, to answer a question just because it’s there. He argues that above and beyond simple curiosity, maintaining a diversity of basic plant science research avenues is critical for paradigm shifts and future innovation, which are impossible to predict and can impact not only plant and agricultural science but medical science too. You can see him present his arguments in the video below, kindly provided by the Journal of Experimental Botany.

During the question and answer session after his talk, Baulcombe suggested that it would be a good idea to have some sort of online celebration of basic plant science. We jumped on this idea, and asked a few UK based scientists researching fundamental questions in plant science to write a blog post explaining their research and why they spend their time and energy on it. The ‘Celebrating Basic Plant Science’ series will start this week, and we’ll publish one story a month until we run out of volunteers. For now they’ll be here on the blog, but eventually we’ll give them a more permanent home on the GARNet website.

If you’re interested in finding out more about a certain area of plant science, please feel free to Tweet us (@weedinggems, @garnetweets) or to leave a comment below. If you want to contribute your own story Celebrating Basic Plant Science, we’d love to hear from you – please email charis@garnetcommunity.org.uk

Video credit: Journal of Experimental Botany. See the other talks from PlantSci 2013 here

Celebrating basic plant science with David Baulcombe

Categories: UKPSF
Comments: No Comments
Published on: May 10, 2013

 

Barbara McClintock discovered transposable elements when investigating irregular colouring in maize.

It’s now nearly a month since UK PlantSci 2013, and high time I wrote something about it on this blog. Rebecca Nesbit has written two posts about it already on the Society of Biology blog, and a New Phytologist meeting report will be coming out soon. The Weeding the Gems contribution to this collection of UK PlantSci nostalgia is a write-up of the second keynote talk by David Baulcombe.

David Baulcombe’s talk was a rallying cry in defence of basic research and plant science. He kicked it off with a whistle-stop history of important scientific achievements, all by scientists carrying out basic research on plants: Robert Hooke, who identified and labelled ‘cells’ for the first time when studying woody plant biomass in 1665; 19th century monk Gregor Mendel, whose peas were the first genetic model system; Russian botanist Dmitri Iwanowsk, who in 1892 was the first scientist to identify and characterise a virus; and Barbara McClintock, who discovered transposable elements in maize. More recently even than McClintock’s work, Argonaute proteins, tumour formation, and cellular totipotency were all identified first in plants (Bohmert et al. 1998, EMBO 17:170; Sussex 2008, Plant Cell 20:1189).

The scientists involved in the discoveries listed above were carrying out what they presumably viewed as interesting work, simply because they wanted to know the answer – pure science, but all with far-reaching consequences. Baulcombe commented than in the 21st Century research is impact-driven, so some of these pioneers may have struggled to get funding via today’s funding mechanisms.

Now, it is unfair to say that research today is all end-product focussed and impact driven. I know that the BBSRC and other funders worldwide fund basic plant science research regularly, and I highlight some of it here on this blog. Baulcombe’s main point in this first half of the talk was that basic excellent plant science research has to be celebrated in its own right rather than as a half-way point to a useful product in the future. (more…)

Dundee’s week of plant science conferences

Categories: conferences, UKPSF
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: April 23, 2013

Well, what felt like the biggest week of the year for UK plant science is now over. Last week, the UK Plant Phenomics Network meetingUK PlantSci 2013, and Monogram all happened at the University of Dundee. It was a whirlwind week of inspirational talks, updates, people, and a drop or two of Scottish whiskey.

PlantSci 2013 was the second annual conference organised by the UK Plant Sciences Federation. Representatives from fields as wide-ranging as basic and applied research, industry, molecular biology, ecology, and science communication spoke to an auditorium packed with people from all stages of their careers.

I have committed myself to no less than 3 write-ups of PlantSci 2013, so I won’t blog about it here, but I will do my best to write up David Baulcombe’s keynote talk as soon as I can. As far as I know, it hasn’t had a write-up yet and was very inspirational. However, until I can share my reports, there are plenty of PlantSci-related media to immerse yourself in.

The extraordinarily talented Rebecca Nesbit of the Society of Biology managed to write-up two sessions of PlantSci 2013 while live-tweeting. Her post on the first keynote talk, ‘Feeding 10 Billion People on a Finite Planet’ is here and her second post, on the Inspiring Future Generations session, is here.

At one point the conference hashtag #plantsci2013 was one of the most used phrases on Twitter! Twitter coverage of the conference extended well beyond the lecture theatre in Dundee as people all over the world followed the conference by the live-tweets and interacted with delegates who were present. For a fairly comprehensive overview of all the talks and the conference in general, take a look at the Storify I made of the Twitter feed. The shortlinks in the tweets will take you to papers or resources the speakers mentioned in their talks.

Monogram is the annual conference on UK small grain cereal and grass research, again attended by breeders and other stakeholders as well as basic and applied researchers. The Monogram blog will soon have a post about the conference, but in the mean time the Storify of tweets from the meeting is here.

Image credit: left image, Anne Osterrieder, right image, Charis Cook

 

Ready for UK PlantSci 2013

Categories: Friday Film, UKPSF
Comments: No Comments
Published on: April 12, 2013

To whet your appetite for next week’s UK PlantSci 2013 conference in Dundee, here are clips of the keynote speakers Charles Godfray (University of Oxford) and David Baulcombe (University of Cambridge). I think that the Godfray clip can be considered a very unofficial ‘preview’ of his keynote lecture Feeding 10 Billion People on a Finite Planet, which will be on Tuesday morning. David Baulcombe’s interview probably isn’t linked to his Of maize and men or peas and people lecture on Wednesday morning, but it is still a good watch – an interesting and balanced discussion about GM.

If you’re not coming up to Dundee, you can still keep up with these talks and all the others live on the Twitter hashtag #PlantSci2013. I’ll post the blog posts and reports about the conference here once they’ve trickled out, too.

 

Video credits: The Oxford Martin School and LEAF

page 1 of 1

Follow Me
TwitterRSS
GARNetweets
May 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Welcome , today is Saturday, May 27, 2017