Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
19 Sep 2016
The time and effort that peer reviewers give to the MRC peer review process is invaluable in helping our research boards and panels make funding decisions. MRC Peer Review Programme Manager Rachel Prosser asked board and panel members for tips on writing a grant application review.
1. Know what you’re doing
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to read the guidance carefully. It’s there to help you use your expertise to provide the best review possible. Is it a grant? Is it a fellowship? Different MRC grant schemes have specific assessment criteria so, before you get started, check what type of proposal you’re being asked to review. Remember: if you have concerns about any element of the review or the process, please just get in touch before you start – we’re really happy to help.
2. Make it (un)personal
Try to keep your review strictly professional, not personal. Bear in mind that your report will be fed back to the applicant who will have an opportunity to respond to any questions that you raise. To remain anonymous, it’s important to avoid including anything in your assessment that will identify you personally. This includes making references to your own work, where you have worked or who you have worked with. [...]
Continue reading: 8 top tips for writing a useful grant review
1 Sep 2016
Elly Tyler, a PhD student from Queen Mary University of London, has taken a break from her research to learn about the world of science policy, as an intern at the Academy of Medical Sciences. If you’re an MRC-funded PhD student and you’d like to do the same, the next round of applications opens 12 September 2016.
Photo credit: Academy of Medical Sciences
What do you think of when you hear the words ‘science policy’?
As a PhD student in my PhD bubble, I’d always thought that science policy was relatively straightforward. You identify a topic – like the use of animals in research – do some research, write a report, and then send it to government. Job done – influence made. But, what I didn’t really get was …how? How do you identify the topics to shine your spotlight on? How do you get government to listen? How are changes in policy made? [...]
Continue reading: From labs to legislation
24 Aug 2016
Jennifer Lawson is the Trials Manager for the recently launched Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study looking to do the most in-depth research ever conducted to find out how Alzheimer’s disease develops. She is part of Professor Simon Lovestone’s Translational Neuroscience and Dementia Research group at the University of Oxford.
Career in brief
- Psychology BSc
- Worked at the Oxford Mental Health Trust as a Research Coordinator
- Part time Cognitive Neuroscience MSc whilst working full time at the Trust
- Managed the feasibility study that has led to this Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study
My career path has been slightly unusual. Like many of my peers studying psychology, I planned to become a clinical psychologist. So I went to gain experience working in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, assisting with clinical trials and other research studies. [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Trials Manager Jen Lawson
19 Jul 2016
As part of the MRC Festival of Medical Research, one group of scientists struck out from the lab and into the street to explain how our immune system works and how we might be able to make it fight cancer. Dr Martin Christlieb tells us why.
A brightly-coloured ball representing a healthy, or potentially dangerous mutant, cell. Image copyright: Peter Canning
How much does your audience care about your science? One answer to this might be ‘slightly less than you do’. We should all allow our passion to shine through when we speak to people, whatever it is. After all, attitudes are infectious. But to be infected, someone has to actually be there to hear the enthusiasm in your voice. [...]
Continue reading: ‘Smugging’ – v. To catch someone off guard and show them your science.
12 Jul 2016
Today we’ll be joining a number of other organisations in Parliament to demonstrate how patient data is revolutionising healthcare at an event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research. Grace Gottlieb, who’ll be there, explains what the session is all about.
It’s hard to overestimate the benefits of studies using patient data – they have allowed us to spot disease trends in populations, understand the causes of disease and learn how to treat patients.
In 2005 we worked with a number of other organisations to set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research (APPG) to provide a forum for parliamentarians to discuss medical research. So today, scientists, research participants and representatives like me from the MRC and other research funders are venturing into Westminster to talk to parliamentarians about how vital patient data is to research. [...]
Continue reading: Talking patient data with parliamentarians
20 Apr 2016
Conservators Rebecca Bennett and Jill Barnard tell us about their project, funded by PRISM, to conserve 150 items from the Crick Mill Hill Laboratory (previously the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, NIMR) in preparation for the move to the Francis Crick Institute. The objects will be used by the Crick for exhibition and may also be loaned to education groups with an interest in the history of biomedical research.
Polystyrene proteins: This early model of a ribosome designed by Robert Cox and built by NIMR engineer Frank Doré in 1968 was signed by some of the leading biomedical scientists of the time – including Francis Crick.
We are now 11 weeks into our ‘Tools of the Trade’ conservation project. So far we have treated 137 of 150 historical objects that tell the story of how research developed at NIMR over the course of 100 years. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part three: From polystyrene proteins to circuit board spaghetti
30 Mar 2016
As part of the Neighbourhoods and Communities programme at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit led by Professor Anne Ellaway, Dr Paul McCrorie and PhD student Felicity Hayball are looking at how the local environment may determine levels of physical activity in children. They spoke to Sylvie Kruiniger about their research.
Copyright: MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow
In the UK, increasingly sedentary lifestyles are being shown to impact upon more than just weight. Creating good habits around physical activity from a young age could help people to stay healthy throughout life. So what gets children outside and moving? What do they like to see? What puts them off? Dr Paul McCrorie and Felicity Hayball are using different methods to find out more about how children respond to their built, natural and social environments. [...]
Continue reading: No ball games! And other things that might be making kids less active
11 Mar 2016
Who knew we had such pretty guts? Dr Nicola Fawcett, medic and researcher at the University of Oxford, produced these images in collaboration with photographer Chris Wood to show the importance of bacteria for our health and the issue of antimicrobial resistance. The botanical images are made from common bacteria taken from the gut and stamped in decorative patterns onto agar jelly before leaving them to grow overnight. The photographs are on display at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford until 14 May 2016.
Only one left… There is a lot in the news about drug-resistant bacteria. Here you can see discs containing nine commonly-used antibiotics in hospitals. The dark-blue coloured bacteria can grow quite happily in the presence of eight of them – the antibiotics do not kill them. The bacteria are ‘resistant’ to all but one of the antibiotics we have available.
The Serendipidous Flower: Bacteria all behave differently. Some are able to produce a slime and spread out onto the nutrient jelly, looking a bit like a flower. I’d love to say this was intentional -in fact it would be incredibly difficult to get just one colony growing where you wanted. They way this turned out was just luck!
Vine leaf tip: The bacteria are stamped or painted onto the jelly, then left to grow overnight. Each dot is a single colony of bacteria, each containing millions of bacteria. There are dyes in the jelly that are only activated by the enzymes of specific bacteria; in this case, it was Escherichia coli (purple), Citrobacter (turquoise), and Klebsiella(dark blue). These dyes dissolve into the bacterial colonies, turning them different colours.
Wild vines of the gut: Growing on the surface of this nutrient jelly are three common bacteria that helpfully inhabit your gut. The plates also contain paper discs infused with antibiotics, which dissolve into the agar, and alter how the bacteria grow.
Our guts and us: Recent advances in scientific research have enabled us to study bacteria in new ways. This is showing us that we wouldn’t be able to survive in this world without bacteria – we live together, and often help one another, living together in balance.
Resistance is hard: The bacteria living near the antibiotic disc here have to work hard to try and stay alive. They are producing a lot of the enzymes that create the colour, hence the ‘rainbow’ appearance.
Competition is healthy: The tree is created out of a mix of bacteria, mostly competing for space and nutrients, so colonies can’t grow larger than pinpricks. This is similar to what happens in the gut, where ‘beneficial’ bacteria can out-compete more harmful ones and keep them under control. Towards the edges, the antibiotics are killing many bacteria, removing the competition. This means the ‘antibiotic resistant’ bacterial colonies can grow larger. By killing the sensitive bacteria with antibiotics, we have allowed the resistant ones to ‘take over’.
This work tells me to remember that the antibiotics I prescribe can sometimes cause unintended harm to the gut bacteria that are helping to keep my patient healthy. It tells me I should be careful not to use antibiotics where they’re not needed.
These pictures and captions were originally published on the University of Oxford’s Modernising Medical Microbiology site. Copyright: Chris Wood and Nicola Fawcett, Modernising Medical Microbiology under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
We often talk about bacteria as harmful things. Images in the media, advertising, even doctors and scientists, portray a healthy, desirable world as one free of bacteria: sterile, washed and scrubbed clean. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this isn’t true. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: our gorgeous gut flora
8 Mar 2016
In ‘To the Crick! Part 1: Moving home after 100 years’ we talked about how items like personal papers from the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) archives are in need of a new home. The papers of one of NIMR’s most famous names, Rosa Beddington, are being rehoused in the archive of The Royal Society. Royal Society archivist Laura Outterside is celebrating the arrival of the first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). This post was originally published on The Respository and has been adapted and reproduced here with kind permission from The Royal Society.
Rosa Beddington on admissions day in 1999 when she became a Fellow of the Royal Society. ©The Royal Society
What better way for the Royal Society archive to celebrate International Women’s Day than by welcoming our first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow? We’ve recently had the good news that the Royal Society archive will be the new home for the papers of Rosa Beddington, a developmental biologist at the NIMR who became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1999. [...]
Continue reading: To the Crick! Part two: The Royal Society welcomes its first collection of personal papers from a female Fellow
25 Feb 2016
In the first week of March 2016, over 5000 people who have taught us a great deal about life are turning 70. These are the ‘Douglas babies’: members of the MRC National Survey of Health and Development cohort study who have been improving medical research since they entered the world, and Dr James Douglas’ cohort, in 1946. Chair of the NSHD Steering Committee Professor John Frank, NSHD Director Professor Diana Kuh and her predecessor Emeritus Professor Michael Wadsworth, discuss this life project and wish them a very happy 70th.
Each year everybody in the cohort receives a birthday card. (Image: UCL Creative Media Services)
It is not often in life that one can wish several thousand people “Happy Birthday” all at once. It is even rarer to be able to say to them all: Thanks… very much… for your sterling, lifelong contributions to medical science.
NSHD is the longest continually-studied birth cohort in the history of science and we are getting ready to celebrate the cohort’s 70th ‘birthday week’. Thanks to the generosity of participants, more is being discovered now than ever before about what factors, from early life onwards, contribute to the risk of the commonest diseases of later life. [...]
Continue reading: Happy 70th birthday to the Douglas babies!