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Insight blog

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

I’m a Scientist…Get me out of here!

19 Jul 2018

Last month, 25 MRC-funded researchers and support staff connected with over 1,400 UK school students online, in the first ever ‘I’m a Scientist MRC Festival Zone’. Over four weeks, our plucky scientists responded to thousands of questions from students, who then voted for their favourite answers. Here our winner Liza Selley, from the MRC Toxicology Unit, tells her tale.

“If a car travels at infinite speed, what evidence can you use to prove it was there?”

I'm a Scientist Logo

There stands my favourite question from the MRC Festival’s I’m a Scientist competition. A prime example of the imagination and inquisitiveness with which children explore the world around them. Of how commonplace thoughts mix with the abstract, and how no question appears unanswerable. [...]

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How drones are helping in the fight against malaria

11 Jul 2018

By combining high-tech drones with low-tech methods, researchers are embarking on an MRC-funded project to map out where mosquitoes breed in Malawi. But how could this help with fighting malaria? MRC Fellow Michelle Stanton of Lancaster University and Christopher Jones of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, currently based at the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW) Clinical Research Programme in Blantyre, Malawi, are leading the way.

High tech plus ‘bucket and spade’ employed in the fight against malaria. Michelle Stanton, Author provided [...]

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The power of big data

26 Jun 2018

Patient data has the power to revolutionise our approach to medical research and help improve human health. We’re funding scientists to use big data to tackle some of the biggest health challenges, including neurodegeneration. Here Ed Pinches, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, tells us why access to large data sets is so important in our fight against dementia.

It’s the hot topic, the subject dominating much of the latest news. Data. Your data. How it is used, how it is stored, who gets to access it, and for what purpose?

[...]

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Meal timings: do they matter?

19 Jun 2018

Could something as simple as when we eat influence our body weight and health? That’s what Professors Alexandra Johnstone and Peter Morgan, of the Rowett Institute at the University of Aberdeen, are investigating. In the aptly named MRC-funded Big Breakfast Study, they’re aiming to distinguish whether meal timings are important – and if so, why.

Professors Peter Morgan and Alexandra Johnstone. Image credit: The Rowett Institute

Do you eat breakfast or usually skip this meal to rush to work, or to sleep for longer? If you don’t eat breakfast is it because you don’t feel hungry and can’t face food first thing? Not feeling hungry in the morning might be because you consumed a lot of calories before sleeping.

If you prefer to hit the snooze button, or eat much later in the day, you’re not alone. The most common pattern of eating in the UK is to consume most of our daily calories in the evening – roughly 40% of our daily energy intake – and fewer calories in the morning. [...]

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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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