By Charis Cook
The UK Plant Sciences Federation (UKPSF) is the group that brings together everyone in the UK doing, or associated with, plant sciences. Member organisations include representatives from across the plant sciences – from molecular biologists to ecologists, educators and industry bodies.
The second annual general meeting of the UKPSF took place last week in the grand setting of the Linnean Society of London. As representatives from the 30 member organisations arrived, they mingled over lunch in the library before retiring to the Council Room to discuss the state of UK plant science.
UKPSF Chair Jim Beynon kicked off proceedings with the Chairman’s Report. He highlighted the wide variety of plant science represented by the UKPSF member organisations, but emphasised that growth is vital for the future of the foundations. He brought back praise for the UKPSF from the Global Plant Council (GPC), which intends to model its structure on the UKPSF and EPSO. The UKPSF is a member of the GPC, and will support it as it takes its next step toward establishing itself as an influential multinational organization by hiring a full time Executive Officer.
Ruth Bastow and Jackie Caine updated the representatives on the year’s activities, including the appointment of Mimi Tanimoto as Executive Officer, UKPSF’s growing web presence which includes Twitter (@plantscience, @UKPSF), LinkedIn, a blog, and the PlantSci website which received over 20 000 hits during the past year. The UKPSF was also an integral part of the response to the infamous Seralini et al. paper which claimed that Round-Up Ready GM maize caused tumours in rats.
Another important science communication development this year was the appointment of a Plant Science Public Liaison at Sense About Science. Mimi will be working with Frances Downey in the coming year to set up a panel of plant science experts who will answer questions from the public. The first event, held in October this year, was a successful online Q&A about the environmental impact of different agriculture systems.
A highlight of the year was the UKPSF’s first annual conference, PlantSci 2012. The meeting was a runaway success, featuring a keynote lecture from the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir John Beddington.
Mimi Tanimoto’s overview of the coming year included the news that Professor Sir David Baulcombe from the University of Cambridge will be one of the keynote speakers at PlantSci 2013, next year’s conference in Dundee. She also announced that the UKPSF has become the new national coordinator of Fascination of Plants Day 2013, and that she would like to hear from anybody interested in organizing an event.
Mimi asked members for their input on a number of items, including a plant biotechnology statement, a plant science outreach toolkit, recommendations for PlantSci 2014, and a UK plant sciences status report that the UKPSF will release next year. Member organisations were keen to get involved.
Despite concerns about the teaching and training of certain areas of plant science, there were many positive stories of UK plant science. Five members presented inspiring stories of the work their organisations were involved in – from research and its application, to outreach and other examples of UK plant science having real impact.
Jim Beynon closed the meeting, saying that the discussions had been excellent. During the drinks reception in the Linnean Society library, more news was exchanged over wine and nibbles before the representatives went their separate ways.