The Nutrition Society present evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology

Houses of Parliment

In September 2017, the Nutrition Society presented written evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology for the Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy. The Society can now announce that the evidence has been accepted and has been included in the work of the committee. 

The Society is pleased to share the evidence submitted below.

Evidence from the Nutrition Society to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology for the Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy

14 September 2017

The Nutrition Society is a Scientific Learned Society, founded in 1941, comprising of 2,500 members representing science, academia, industry, government and policy. The Society’s principal activity is the dissemination of nutritional science through publishing internationally renowned scientific journals; holding science conferences; publishing textbooks on the science of nutrition; providing education and training services.

The Nutrition Society is pleased to offer this evidence in relation to the Life Sciences and the Industrial Strategy.

Question 13. Responsibility and accountability?

Who should take responsibility for the implementation of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and to whom should they be accountable? What should the UK Government’s role be? What should the role of the academic, charitable and business sectors be?

Evidence from The Nutrition Society

Introduction. 

1. The Call for Evidence, at Question 13, asks ‘What should the role of the academic, charitable and business sectors be?’ There exists significant evidence Learned Societies (with charitable, non-profit status) currently deliver essential aspects of the life sciences industrial strategy.  Implementation and subsequent success of the strategy could be effectively enhanced through the collaboration with Learned Societies. The Nutrition Society presents this evidence as an example of its singular contribution to UK science, and as an example of the potential capacity of similar Learned Societies.

Evidence.

2. The Nutrition Society formed as a scientific Learned Society in 1941. Now home to 2,500 members (predominantly in the UK and Ireland but also with members spread across 78 countries), it publishes five internationally renowned scientific journals. These five journals have a combined total of over 40,000 citations. The Society holds four major science conferences per year in England, Scotland and Ireland, attracting speakers and delegates from across the world.  These journals and conferences demonstrate, through their content and output, the ability of the Nutrition Society to effectively collaborate with the very best scientific minds across Europe and the world, a functionality demonstrated by many Learned Societies.

3. The ability of the Nutrition Society and its members to collaborate on an international scale is also demonstrated by the Society's leading and pivotal role in the founding of two international scientific bodies: the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) in 1948; and the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) in 1979.

4. In addition the Society: publishes a range of nutritional science textbooks (now translated into four languages around the world); funds research fellowships, summer studentships, and internships; presents awards for scientific excellence; and delivers professional training - effectively leading and assisting in providing a range of professional up-skilling to researchers in support of nutritional science. 

5. All of this is currently delivered with no government support and is predominately funded from the revenue generated through the sale of its journals and textbooks. In addition these funds help the Society maintain its independence and reputation by ensuring the scientific content of its conferences is independent from any external financial influences.

How Learned Societies can be involved in the delivery of the strategy 

6. It is suggested there are four key areas many Learned Societies could contribute to the strategy.

  1. Facilitator: The independence the Nutrition Society, and other Learned Societies, enjoy provides a unique opportunity for it/them to act as facilitator when industry, academia, researchers, policy makers need to come to together to discuss issues.
  2. Advice: As effectively, through its journals and textbooks, the central custodian of the body of knowledge in its scientific field of nutritional science, the Society is capable of providing evidence-based science to inform policy making. Other Learned Societies enjoy a similar position.
  3. Communicate: Through their publications and conferences, Learned Societies are able to communicate the results of research to the science community and the wider public.
  4. Collaborate: The Nutrition Society and other Learned Societies already informally collaborate over a wide range of scientific issues. Such collaboration networks are able to contribute to the strategic process, inform the discussion and create the best possible environment for the future of science and research in the UK. 

The Role of Learned Societies

7. Successful implementation and delivery of strategy happens when 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts'. If the current many successes and strengths of the UKs Learned Societies could be harnessed into a synergistic model in facilitating, providing advice, communicating and collaboration in support of the life sciences industrial strategy, they could deliver a unique role in its success. Creating, and leading, such a synergistic model will require, it is suggested, considerable vision and determination. Although government oversight will be necessary from a strategic integration perspective it may be more effectively created and led through greater formalisation of existing Learned Societies’ networks and collaboration. An excellent example of such collaboration currently exists with the work undertaken by the Royal Society of Biology.

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