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Social science

With awards, world-class meetings and workshops, the British Society for Cell Biology plays an integral role in the success of UK research and technology

The British Society for Cell Biology (BSCB) exists to promote research in all branches of cell biology and to encourage the interchange of information. BSCB, with its dynamic, forward-looking approach coupled to its strong and sustained support for all aspects of cell biology, especially nurturing the next generation of young scientists, has an integral role to play in the success of UK research and technology.

It was founded in 1965 and organises and supports meetings and conferences relevant to cell biology and plays an increasing role in raising awareness of science policy issues in the UK. The society is run on a charitable basis and is supported by membership fees and a generous grant from the Company of Biologists.

The society has a membership of around 1,400 and is run by a committee of unpaid volunteers elected by the members. This committee is drawn largely from the UK cell biology community and includes principal investigators from most of the UK?s leading universities and research centres. A major goal of the society is to engage the younger members of the community; this is particularly evident in the on-going support of the Honor Fell Travel Awards which are provided for junior scientists to attend meetings worldwide on a cell biology theme.

This provides an excellent opportunity for young scientists to communicate their work internationally as well as meet and network with their colleagues from other countries, thereby fostering the spirit of international collaboration that is essential in 21st century biomedical research. These awards are possible through a grant from the Company of Biologists to the BSCB.

Each year, the BSCB awards the Hooke Medal to a cell biologist in the UK who is at an early stage of his/her independent career. The recipient is awarded the medal at the annual Spring conference and gives a plenary lecture on his/her work. As well as highlighting some of the best UK science, this award functions to provide role models for our younger members.

The primary function of the society is the organisation of world-class scientific meetings. With an increasingly crowded meetings calendar, and more organisations competing for attendees, trade links and sponsorship, the BSCB meetings aim to stand as markers for true scientific excellence. The annual Spring meeting is the main event in the BSCB calendar and is held at key locations throughout the UK. Following the focus of the 2006 meeting on Stem Cells, the 2007 Spring meeting covered a broader range of topics and provided a great opportunity for BSCB members to meet and hear about the latest advances in many areas of cell biology. The meeting had a special emphasis on protein modifications and dynamics in health and disease and featured an outstanding list of speakers.

Our Spring meetings are often run on a collaborative basis with other societies, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of modern research. For example, in 2008 the BSCB will be holding its Spring meeting jointly with the British Society for Developmental Biology at the University of Warwick, thus ensuring an exciting mix of the two subject areas. Topics will include ?How Cells Sense their Environment?, ?Regeneration and Repair?, ?How Cells Deal with Problem Proteins? and ?Gene Networks? and speakers have been recruited from the UK, US, Europe, Israel, Japan and Canada. The recruitment of outstanding speakers is reflected in the sponsorship of the meetings and trade exhibitions.

Cell biology is a high-technology discipline, notably through recent developments in imaging, genetic modification and bioinformatics; consequently the society is very keen to establish and maintain good relationships with key technology companies to provide cutting-edge information and access to the membership. This is largely achieved through the meetings calendar with regular attendance by industrial sponsors keen to relay the latest information on their products direct to end users. In addition to the annual Spring meeting, the BSCB organises a series of smaller, more focused meetings that provide members with the opportunity to engage directly with those in their immediate field, along the lines of the US ?Gordon Research Conferences?.

We also recognise the importance of one-day local meetings to allow scientists in a geographical area to get together and exchange information. Such meetings are increasingly popular and the BSCB widely supports these activities. Together, these meetings provide a forum for a broader look at cell biology and scientific research in general. Alongside scientific sessions, the society runs extremely popular workshops on topics ranging from careers guidance to science funding and policy issues. The BSCB is also very keen to engage non-members, notably the more inquisitive ones. There are two key initiatives in this area. First, there is softCELL, the BSCB e-learning pages on the society website.

The BSCB was one of the first professional society sites to offer web-based learning pages for teachers and learners. Others have followed. Second, it is collaborating with Professor Paul Luzio, Director, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research (CIMR) to produce a ?telescope type project? for cell biology. Professor Clare Isacke as BSCB President leads the collaboration for the BSCB. Professor Michael Reiss of the Institute of Education, University of London and Professor Richard Iggo of University of St Andrews are also associated with the project.

The aim of the project is to provide students and schools with interpreted images and video clips produced using research-level imaging equipment and techniques such as scanning electron microscopy and fluorescent stains. A ?proof of concept? site called CELLpics is now under construction and can be seen at

Communication with the membership is central to the success of the society; the BSCB website has recently been re-launched containing all pertinent information for members and non-members. The society also issues a biannual newsletter containing a wide range of information relating to British cell biology including all meetings, information and reports on previous conferences, book reviews, and news, as well as profiles of new institutes and funding issues.

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