UK Centre for Bioscience – Responses to: Conservation, Consolidation or Creativity?

I was asked to respond to Kevan Gartland’s piece in the UK Centre for Bioscience Bulletin 32, Spring 2011  “Enhancing the Bioscience Community: Conservation, Consolidation or Creativity?” on the demise of the HEA Bioscience Subject Centre. I have reproduced my response below.  Kevan’s piece and a further response by Julian Park are available in the online version of the bulletin.

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There is no doubt that the UK Centre for Bioscience has done much to raise the profile of excellence in teaching and learning with many in the Bioscience community having benefited from its hallmark, high quality resources and supportive networking events. Despite its many positive attributes decisions taken in recent times appear to herald an untimely end for the Centre. So what can be done to prevent the good work of the Centre slowly drifting off the radar?

I agree with Kevan that some degree of conservation and consolidation of
resources must take place; the electronic environment can allow that to happen
easily. But one of the greatest spin-outs from the work of the Centre has to be the strong network of like-minded colleagues drawn together through its events such as the many and varied workshops, conferences and the excellent Reps
Forum.  How can this unique resource be conserved and augmented? I suggest
that in the absence of any other stimulus, social network sites and Web 2.0 tools
such as Twitter may be one means of helping colleagues band together; with
occasional blog posts and sharing of papers and ideas helping to keep the conversation going. In fact this in silico networking has already happened to some degree within the bioscience education community and may be the catalyst for the organisation of face-to-face networking opportunities organised around specific themes that emerge in the future.  Could the facilitation of such events be handled by the new structure at the new HEA?

In its myriad of functions the UK Centre for Bioscience has performed a very important role that lies close to home for each dedicated teaching practitioner in the Biosciences.  It has added a level of credence to excellent teaching practices that may sometimes be overlooked in research intensive environments. It therefore has helped to raise the profile of teaching and learning within institutions thus removing the feeling of isolation that can sometimes exist for teaching-focused colleagues. This aspect of its support will be sadly missed.

It is my hope that in the post-UK Centre for Bioscience era we who have benefited much will continue to sustain the current network, share resources, encourage and mentor junior colleagues and collectively raise the standard of excellence in teaching and learning in the biosciences. But in this regard the ball is firmly in our court.

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