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.

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

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 educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

1 Response

  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.