Potential skills shortage in niche research areas

C&I Issue 20, 2009

An independent panel has made a series of recommendations to the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) that it says will help combat a future lack of skilled workers in what it sees as vital, but vulnerable, areas of research.

The BBSRC Skills and Careers Strategy Panel, which compiled the report, is concerned there may be fewer employment opportunities or a lower profile among students in the areas of whole animal physiology, industrial biotechnology, plant and agricultural sciences and systematics and taxonomy.

‘The niche research skills within the four broad areas of concern that we have identified are crucial for UK bioscience because these areas underpin so many of the important scientific, social and economic impacts we see arising from bioscience research,’ says Ottoline Leyser, BBSRC bioscience skills and careers strategy panel chair.

The report follows a consultation by the BBSRC and the Biosciences Federation on strategically important and vulnerable capabilities in UK bioscience.

Celia Caulcott, BBSRC director of innovation and skills, says the consultation will help ensure the UK remains at the forefront of global bioscience research. As well as helping universities and students decide where to specialise, the report is also important for forward planning of research organisations whose work relies on the employment of staff with niche expertise, she adds.

The BBSRC says it is already encouraging skill development in the areas identified. For example, in the industrial biotechnology area, the BBSRC has prioritised funding for postgraduate studentships in bioprocessing, as well as providing funding for research and training schemes.

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