Nature Biotechnology’s June issue contains several articles of particular interest to scientists as communicators, authors and entrepreneurs. Here are a few highlights:
Science communication reconsidered.
Tania Bubela et al.
As new media proliferate and the public’s trust and engagement in science are influenced by industry involvement in academic research, an interdisciplinary workshop provides some recommendations to enhance science communication. Among these are that graduate students need to be taught about the social and political context of science and how to communicate with the media and a diversity of publics; that the factors contributing to media hype and errors (largely of omission) are explicitly recognized to allow science institutions and media organizations informed communication policies; research on science communication should be expanded to include online and digital media; more investment in the systematic tracking of news and cultural indicators, including traditional news outlets but also radio, entertainment TV, religious media, the web and new documentary genres; and a new ‘science policy’ beat in journalism courses to fill in the gaps between the technical backgrounders preferred by science writers and the conflict emphasis of political reporters. Finally, the authors argue, if there is a major threat to science journalism, it is that science journalists are losing their jobs at for-profit news organizations; new models of support for science journalism are needed, in which online digital formats blend professional reporting with user-generated content and discussion.
Maters of their universe.
Genentech—the biotech venture that launched a thousand companies—is no longer its own master. In March, majority stakeholder Roche reached an agreement with the South San Francisco, California–based company under which the Swiss drug maker would take over the biotech for $46.8 billion. But many remember those first years when a small team of bright, intellectually disciplined young scientists—often rowdy and personally eccentric people—got the company up and running. Randy Osborne and Laura DeFrancesco caught up with a few of those pioneers to talk about that era, their time and how they felt leading the charge.
Wasting cash—the decline of the British biotech sector.
Graham Smith, Muhammad Safwan Akram, Keith Redpath & William Bains
Undercapitalization and overgenerous boardroom compensation for management have been major contributors to the poor performance of UK biotech. Despite historic leadership in European biotech, the UK’s industry has suffered a near collapse in the past two years and now has little private or public investment and no candidates for world-class companies. Why do shareholders allow UK public biotech companies to accumulate top management that pays itself so much, is unmotivated to drive shareholder value and as a consequence apparently drains the company of resources, notably cash? These questions, and others, are addressed in the feature.