The UKPSF

Image: http://plantsci2012.org.uk/

The United Kingdom Plant Science Federation (UKPSF) was launched on 23rd November 2011, having recognised that ‘UK Plant Science can only meet its potential through stronger engagement within and beyond the plant science community’ (Sabina Leonelli et al., New Phytologist, in press, 2012). Amongst the UKPSF’s six aims perhaps the most important are to: ‘Increase the understanding of the significance of Plant and Crop Science amongst government, funders, industry and society in general’; ‘Formulate a coordinated strategy and vision for Plant and Crop Science in the UK that will be utilised to inform policy’; and ‘Support efforts to inspire, educate and train the next generation of plant and crop scientists’. Noble aims, which are sorely needed at a time when plant sciences have probably never been more necessary in tackling – maybe even solving? – many of the most pressing global issues such as food security, and in coping with climate change (Claire Grierson et al., New Phytologist 192: 6–12, 2011), and where concerns over the supply of new plant scientists has probably never been under greater threat (Sinéad Drea biosience education 17: 2, online).

The first annual conference of this botanical trades’ union was held at the John Innes Centre (Norwich, UK) on 18th and 19th April, 2012, and fittingly dealt with the twin themes of inspiring the next generation and reflecting on the importance of the whole range of plant sciences to achieve a unified goal of a better planet (well, that’s how I saw it!). Thus, at one end of the phytological spectrum we had Sandra Knapp (Natural History Museum, London) emphasising the need for fieldwork and exploration to uncover the rich botanical diversity that still awaits discovery – and it is a sad fact that plant hunters are a dwindling resource in their own right. And at the other end, we had Richard Mott (Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, Oxford) dealing with the latest methodology for sequencing Arabidopsis genomes. Interestingly, Mott usually works with mice. So, if we can convert a hard-core animal scientist to the cause of botany maybe things can’t be too bad?

The issues raised at this UKPSF conference all related to global concerns that are important to plant science wherever it is practised on the planet, and as such my next few posts will be dedicated to some of the topics that were covered.

About Nigel Chaffey

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an amusing, educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

One thought on “The UKPSF

  1. Hopefully UK can recover its tradition in Plant Science, not because UK lost it, but because certainly UK government is not paying enough attention to the matter. Most of us have been expended sometime of our scientific life in UK universities. Many of our world recognized plant scientists had some training in UK. Myself had my year at Department of Biology of University of Leicester. You have one of the most important botanic garden in the world, one of the most important plant-breeding centre as well, and much more.
    So, I wish that UK government can wake-up and look again to UK plant scientists and their world wide importance.

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