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Insight blog

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

A parliamentary lab meeting

13 Jun 2018

Each year scientists pair up with UK parliamentarians to gain an insight into each other’s worlds, as part of the Royal Society’s Parliamentary Pairing Scheme. Glenn Masson, a postdoc from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, shares his experience of welcoming an MP into his lab.

Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, arrived on my doorstep at midday. My lab doorstep that is, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). He was here to shadow my day and see what we researchers spend our days doing with public funding.

Glenn Masson and Daniel Zeichner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

Image credit: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology

My week in Parliament – the first leg of our exchange – exposed me to the breadth of MP’s interests. As we briskly made our way around Westminster, national and European headlines ran alongside constituents’ concerns; Daniel’s attention was dragged from one issue to the next at an unrelenting pace. [...]

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Going further to make all clinical trials public

8 Jun 2018

By backing the AllTrials campaign we commit to making all clinical research – both positive and negative – publicly available. We’ve taken the lead in the UK by helping our researchers achieve this goal. But there’s still more funders can do, as Síle Lane, Head of international campaigns and policy at Sense about Science, explains.

Síle Lane

The MRC was one of the first organisations to sign up to the AllTrials campaign which is now supported by almost 800 organisations worldwide. AllTrials is the global campaign for all clinical trials to be registered and results reported.

With backing from organisations like the MRC we have been able to put clinical trial transparency on agendas at the highest levels including the World Health Organisation, the UN, national governments and the European Parliament. New laws mandating transparency have been written and serious discussions have started in research organisations and professional societies about new rules they should adopt to support more transparency. [...]

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Max Perutz Award science writing tips

30 May 2018

Our Max Perutz Science Writing Award is now in its 21st year. To help 2018 entrants, Isabel Harding shares science writing tips from last year’s winner and runners-up, along with comments from the judges on why their articles made the cut. This year’s competition closes on 4 July.

Read around

Kirstin Leslie

Kirstin Leslie

Kirstin Leslie, from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, was our 2017 winner. She recommends reading around to help with your science writing: “I feel like if you do read a lot and absorb a lot of material yourself you’ll be able to learn techniques from other writers.

“And without even releasing it I think you can gain a lot of skills through that. It’s just a really useful exercise to think about your research in a way that is relatable to people and is entertaining to people and I think it’s just a really good thing to do.” [...]

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Outfoxing the flu

23 May 2018

With this year’s flu season over, most of us can breathe a sigh of relief. But taming a virus as notorious and unpredictable as influenza requires year-round research efforts. Carmen Chai looks back at how far we’ve come since the deadly 1918 outbreak of Spanish Flu, and what lies ahead.

Virus particles of the H3N2 subtype of influenza, known as the Hong Kong Flu virus.
Image credit: CDC/Science Photo Library

It’s been labelled as one of the greatest pandemics in history. 100 years ago, the 1918 influenza virus, more commonly known as the Spanish Flu, brought the international medical community to its knees. [...]

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Superbugs vs Superheroes: Getting creative with antimicrobial resistance

10 May 2018

Last month, our researchers channelled their creativity into a one-off UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Superheroes vs Superbugs night at the Science Museum in London. Over 1,000 people came to meet some of the superheroes taking on the fight against the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. Petra Kiviniemi reports.

Antibiotics underpin nearly every aspect of modern medicine, but ever-increasing numbers of pathogens are becoming resistant to our arsenal of drugs. So now researchers are working harder than ever to discover new ways to prevent and treat drug-resistant infections.

Scientists transported guests into the hidden world of bacteria, using virtual reality to shrink them down to the size of bacterial proteins.

Scientists transported guests into the hidden world of bacteria, using virtual reality to shrink them down to the size of bacterial proteins.

The Science Museum currently plays host to Superbugs: The Fight for our lives. It’s an exhibition for anyone to visit and learn about the causes, consequences, and possible solutions for the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). [...]

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Helping you share your clinical trials data

2 May 2018

Rachel Knowles

Rachel Knowles

Clinical trials take a lot of time, money and effort – for everyone involved. So it makes sense to make the most of the data collected. We’ve launched two new initiatives to make it easier for researchers to share their clinical trials data. MRC Programme Manager, Rachel Knowles, explains how you can make use of them to benefit your research.

Clinical trials generate many rich and diverse datasets. By sharing these beyond the original research team, you maximise the value of these data and give other researchers opportunities to use them for new discoveries and collaborations. [...]

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A scientific meeting of minds

25 Apr 2018

Academic conferences present researchers with a fantastic opportunity to share their work, gain feedback, and spark new collaborations. But to attend most conferences you must submit an abstract of completed work, months in advance. What if you’re just getting started? Roni Tibon, together with Rik Henson and other members of the MRC CBU Open Science Committee, raised the issue in a recent article published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Here Roni guides us through the problem, and what they see as the solution.

Roni TibonA call for abstract submissions opens for a great conference in July. The deadline is early January.  Many of your colleagues are going and it’ll be a wonderful opportunity to get input on your work and learn about other peoples’ research.

But as you check the submission guidelines, you realise that the conference organisers ask for abstracts to include results and conclusions, and you can’t provide any conclusions. Maybe you’re still collecting data, considering your design or haven’t started running your experiment yet. [...]

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GDPR: What researchers need to know

16 Apr 2018

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and new Data Protection Act come into force on 25 May. Both apply in the UK and will influence research involving personal data. So what’s changing and how should you, as a researcher, prepare? Sarah Dickson, Head of the MRC Regulatory Support Centre, is here to help.

What is GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with the new UK Data Protection Act, will govern the processing (holding or using) of personal data in the UK.

Although the new regulations haven’t been designed specifically for research, we’ll need to make some changes to research practice. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the UK regulator. The Health Research Authority (HRA), in collaboration, is providing official guidance for people working in health and social care research. We‘re working with both organisations. [...]

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Nutrition research: taking a broader view

12 Apr 2018

The UK Nutrition Research Partnership for health and disease aims to take nutrition research to the next level by building up a strong research base. On the day of the first partnership meeting, Chair Professor Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, Director of the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at the University of Cambridge, explains why nutrition matters to you and your research area.

Image credit: University of Cambridge

The food we eat has a huge impact on our bodies. One of the key conclusions of last year’s review of nutrition and human health research in the UK was that we need to gain a deeper insight into how changes in diet affect our health.

We also need more accurate information about how we might better use nutrition to prevent and treat certain important diseases. The UK Nutrition Research Partnership is focused on strengthening the UK science base in basic and translational nutritional research. [...]

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How research can give patients a voice

4 Apr 2018

Eilean MacDonald

Eilean MacDonald was diagnosed with childhood arthritis when she was only a baby. 18 years on, as well as dealing with normal teenage life and managing her condition, she’s helping MRC researchers on a stratified medicine study to pick the right treatment, first time, for future patients.   

It all started when I was 18 months old and I bumped my knee. My parents noticed that the swelling wouldn’t go down, and took me to our local hospital. They ran tests but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so I was referred to the rheumatology department at Alder Hey children’s hospital, where I was diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). [...]

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