Policy Lunchbox: A Vision for the Society of Biology

At today’s Policy Lunchbox meeting we were fortunate to be joined by Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, inaugural President of the Society of Biology. Over the course of the hour Professor Rothwell provided brief background information on the formation of the Society of Biology, officially incorporated on 1 October this year, and a vision for how the organisation might develop.

Over the course of the following year the Society will consult with members, both individual and organisational, to seek their views on its strategy and business plan. The Society will also seeks ways to engage more closely with member organisations, strengthen its regional base and explore new categories of membership. Professor Rothwell stated that science policy would be a major priority for the new organisation, which would aim to take a proactive stance, rather than the reactivity which had somewhat characterised the Biosciences Federation and Institute of Biology in the past. The Society would draw upon the expertise of member organisations in order to develop a strong policy voice for the biosciences. Public engagement and engagement in Europe and internationally would also be a focus.

The Society of Biology’s strategic aims are:

– to represent the biological sciences in public affairs
– to provide educational and outreach activities
– to develop effective communications
– to engage with the membership
– to ensure financial viability

The Society will be governed by a Council, made up of members from two ‘colleges’: the organisational college and the individual college. Each will elect and Chair and a number of representatives, who will sit on Council. For the organisation to reach a decision and move forward on a point, both colleges must agree.

Two main Committees will drive the work of the organisation; the Education, Training and Policy Committee and the Membership, Marketing and Communications Committee. The Society will co-opt members from amongst its 80,000 (made up of individual members or constituents of member organisations) to working groups, which will report to the Committees.

The new Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, Dr Mark Downs, will take up his post on 1 November, coming from a diverse background in academia, government and private sectors.

Professor Rothwell’s presentation was extremely useful in allowing the SOB’s member organisations, such as the BES, to see how they might work with the Society to help it in delivering its aims. At least initially the work of the SOB will depend on member organisations coming together, through working groups and other means, to assist it. Over time it is hoped that the Society of Biology can become the strong force and voice needed by the biosciences.

Policy Lunchbox is a network of policy officers from across the sciences which meets on the first Wednesday of each month. The next meeting, ‘The role of science in humanitarian aims’ will take place at the Biochemical Society, London, on 4 November. For more information please contact Policy@BritishEcologicalSociety.org or Rebecca.Smith@biochemistry.org