Personal perspectives in the life sciences for the Royal Society’s 350th anniversary

As part of its 350th anniversary celebrations, the Royal Society has invited leading scientists to contribute to a special issue of their journal Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B: Environment and Evolution with their personal analysis of areas of high current relevance and interest. The wide ranging topics include gene function and neural processing, stem cell research, social cognition and ageing.

In line with the growing concern over environmental sustainability and food security (see Defra’s Food 2030 report published yesterday), almost a third of the articles deal with this theme, analysing the current challenges from ecological, social and economic perspectives. In his article, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor Professor John Beddington analyses the factors threatening our capacity to feed the future world population, and echoes the Royal Society ‘Reaping the Benefits’ report published at the end of last year in calling for increased scientific input to tackle these problems. Lord Robert May focuses on the increasing pressure humanity is placing on the natural environment, measured in terms of its ‘ecological footprint’, and its effect on biodiversity, while the Cambridge economist Sir Partha Dasgupta highlights the need for increased recognition of the role of intact ecosystems in providing vital ‘natural capital’ if these areas are to be given the protection they deserve.

The full articles are available free to download from the Royal Society’s website.