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Tying up the loose end that is Purse String Theory

September 16, 2012

Just in case it isn’t obvious by now, Purse String Theory has closed. The three of us started the blog as a project during our master’s degree in science journalism. We completed our course in the summer and have all now gone on to other work. I continue to cover science funding as a reporter for Research Fortnight. Thanks to all our readers and supporters!

A pause for PST

June 22, 2012
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In case you hadn’t noticed, Purse String Theory is on a break for the time being. Our future is not yet decided.

Lisa, Greg and I started this blog last October as a project for our master’s degree in science journalism at City University. The community interaction has been so tremendous that it was the basis for our being shortlisted for a BBC journalism innovation award.
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Questions for science and the wisdom of crowds

June 6, 2012
Crowd in a street

Crowdfunding for science: will members of the public part with their cash?

Crowdfunding is already passé – not over, just old news. I’ve lost track of how many articles I’ve read that cover how scientists are using “innovative” methods to attract funds from among online science fans. Every week seems to bring a new initiative – almost exclusively from the US.

For this post, I’m talking about the sites such as Fundageek, #SciFundChallenge and PetriDish. They allow scientists to create a page for their research, set a funding target and accept money from members of the public.

No doubt these are exciting developments for the handful of scientists who are able to build online communities around their personal brand and research projects. I admire the way these methods are essentially just new forms of science communication wrapped up in a funding plea.

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The future of Science for the Future. Discuss.

May 17, 2012
Professor Tony Barrett, Science for the Future, 15 May 2012

Professor Tony Barrett outside Downing Street on Tuesday

When Professor Tony Barrett pulled a petition out of a coffin on Tuesday, he wanted to start a debate. And boy has he got one.

Twitter, the Guardian, the Telegraph and various blogs have been alive with open discussion about the EPSRC issue and, to a greater degree, the tactics of Barrett’s Science for the Future (SFTF) campaign. My post from Tuesday has been the most visited and commented on in Purse String Theory’s history.

So in this post I intend to synthesise some of the comments of the community in order to move the debate onto how scientists should ‘do’ political action. Pick a point from the list below, and have your way with it in the comments and on Twitter.
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Factions. Probably not the future of science

May 15, 2012

Funeral for science: EPSRC protest, 15 May 2012The scientists who rallied around a coffin today to proclaim the death of British science are pretty pleased with their stunt.

All day there’s been a surreal blend of funeral rites and jovial camaraderie in the face of an evil monolith based in Swindon.

There is apparently no limit to the number of faults the protestors can find with how the EPSRC allocates funds – from the “circumvention” of peer review to the allegation that excellence is no longer a funding criterion (both denied by the EPSRC).
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Tomorrow: a Victorian funeral for British science and EPSRC

May 14, 2012

Victorian funeral horse and cartHorses will pull a hearse and a coffin to Downing Street tomorrow in a PR stunt organised by opponents of the EPSRC’s funding strategy.

The caper will be part of the anti-EPSRC lobby day, which also includes over 100 researchers coming to London to meet with their MPs, a rally led by Sir John Cadogan and the delivery of a petition to Number 10. The petition, signed by 250 people so far, calls for “immediate reform of the EPSRC’s policies to restore credibility in the scientific funding process and secure [the] UK’s competitive edge in science innovation”.
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Geeks call for slow-burning cash

May 11, 2012

The Geek Manifesto by Mark HendersonScience takes a long time. Our national position on science funding can change much faster – even many times as fast as a single scientific endeavour.

Mark Henderson has a solution. Mark, PST friend and former science editor at the Times, calls in his new book for a bipartisan “long-term investment strategy” in science. But is any government ever going to commit to this?

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Departmental science budgets not always controlled by CSAs

May 11, 2012
Defra's Bob Watson

Bob Watson: in control of Defra’s research spend

In his role as chief scientific advisers (CSA) to Defra, Bob Watson has £1 million with which to commission research on any issue containing science that he wishes to challenge. When GO Science worked on its foresight study of food and farming, Watson tested the robustness of its projected food prices. “I use my £1 million to challenge where I think there are significant uncertainties,” he said last October as he gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee during its inquiry into the role of CSAs.

The Lords eventually recommended that all CSAs are allocated “a dedicated, ring-fenced fund by their departments to enable them, where they judge necessary, to commission research or to convene groups of experts”.

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Purse String Theory shortlisted for BBC award!

May 10, 2012

The BBC is running a postgraduate student journalism innovation award – and PST has made the shortlist!

The winner will be announced at the Connecting Communities Conference on May 24 at BBC Media City in Salford. Maybe we should check out how the graphene commercialisation project at the University of Manchester is coming along while we’re up there…

Thanks to the entire PST community for your support, your tweets, your comments, your input, your opinions – the whole nature of this blog is based around the community discussion, so thank you.

We’ll let you know how we get on come May 24. For now, stay tuned for some delicate science funding news tomorrow…

Businessmen! In an adventure with scientists!

May 7, 2012

Pirates film poster

Full details of how the £180m Biomedical Catalyst will work have appeared, with events planned for real-life networking between scientists and the business people who hope to commercialise their research.

It sounds just like the latest film from Aardman Animations, only with business owners in the role of the pirates.

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