This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

How can you research without knowledge?

SCIENCE is a subject for the inquisitive. It is an exploration of all avenues of human intrigue, seeking answers by experimentation to every question, from the silly, through the mundane to the mind-bending. From ‘why is the sky blue’ to ‘which crabs are the fightiest’ through, of course, to the applied sciences, looking for solutions to disease and issues that affect us and our planet, science seeks truth in the most fascinating of questions and challenges. We are enriched by the knowledge it unveils.

To achieve this, science as a subject needs a vast base of specialists working on a wide range of models. But, of course, times are tight, funds are spread thin, and inevitably science is taking a hit. Specialists are disappearing, unable to justify funding for their work from research councils, who are, in turn, under pressure to prioritise work with human applications. The diversity of projects is diminishing and the range of organisms being observed is narrowing. Our knowledge base, consequently, is taking a hit.

Recently, the University of Birmingham announced plans to close its teaching programmes in Biological Recording, including its Masters course, held at the Field Studies Council site in Preston Montford, Shropshire. The closure of these courses, I believe, is a serious blow to science in the UK.

But first, a disclaimer. I have been associated with the University of Birmingham for 8 years, studying there first for my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences. I'm now there studying for a PhD, with extracurricular interests in the wider School of Biosciences, being on student and postgraduate committees. I'm currently in talks to represent doctoral researchers of the School of Biosciences on a certain social media platform in an official, endorsed capacity. You'll understand then that I choose my words carefully here.

I'm disappointed in the university for making this decision, but I acknowledge that its hands are tied. The academic world is changing - indeed it has been for a while - and not for the better.