6 Dec 2013
'The object of the Science and the Parliament is for scientists and parliamentarians to come together for the common good' to paraphrase Professor Lesley Yellowlees, RSC President, in her opening speech of the 14th Science and the Parliament. The event was held on the 13 November 2013, once again at Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. Input from the politicians seemed to be less than in previous years with more presentations from the scientific community.
Professor Jim Iley (RSC) as Chair for the event gave the formal welcome and closing remarks at the end. Professor Lesley Yellowlees gave the opening speech followed by Sir John Arbothnott who led us through a brief history of his distinguished career not only in microbiology but also public affairs which has resulted in authorship of 3 major reports dealing with Scottish Health Services, Voting System and Boundaries in Scotland and joint working by Local Authorities. A number of awards were presented to pupils who had achieved outstanding results in this year's Highers.
The topic for this event was Health, however it could have been subtitled 'Stratified Medicine' as a number of the speakers spoke on that subject. Whereas currently sometimes finding the correct medicine for a particular patient can be trial and error the stratified medicine approach involves looking at the patient's genome to select the correct course of treatment. In cancer cases this would involve looking at both the patient and the cancer's genetics. A new hospital being built in Glasgow will house the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre (SMS-IC). Professor Anna Dominiczak (University of Glasgow) gave an interesting overview on the subject during panel session 1. Professor Darren Monkton brought us up to date with genomics, last year the UK announced a plan to sequence the genome of 100,000 NHS patients. The session was completed by Dr Colin Campbell’s talk on nanosensors. A second Panel Session consisted of Prof. Simon Parson (Scottish Water), Prof. Hugh Pennington (Univ. of Aberdeen) and Dr Meritxell Donadeu (GALVmed).
Alex Neil (Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing) outlined some novel ways money has been saved by the NHS. One NHS trust saved £6m when data mining showed they were, per capita, spending more on statins than other NHS Trusts. Nurses in the Western Isles pioneered the use of smart pens, writing up notes with the pens automatically transmits the data to the local NHS servers, thus avoiding the need to copy out the notes on return to the office.
Three of the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) in their introductory talk chose to speak about next year's referendum rather than the topic of the meeting. As expected Bob Doris (SNP) painted a rosy picture of research in an independent Scotland while Neil Findlay (Lab), Jim Hume (Lib Dem), Jackson Carlaw (Con) were more pessimistic. A statistic which was mention a couple of times was Scotland with 8.4% of the UK population receives 15% of the Research Funding and 14% of Charity Funding.
Prior to the closing remakes Dr Mark Dweck and Dr Karen Lorimer presented some of the latest research in their respective areas of interest, cardiology and social science in health specialising in sexual health.
The event was rounded off with a buffet and exhibition. As usual members of the SCI Scotland Group, Dick Bond and Tom Clarkson, were in attendance with the Group’s stand.
Scotland Group Secretary