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Fishing with the same rod

ResearchfishLast month it was announced that from September 2014 all seven research councils will use the Researchfish tool to collect information from their researchers. As the questions Researchfish will ask researchers are revealed, MRC Evaluation Officer Ellen Charman explains what the move means for MRC-funded researchers.

In a couple of months, the remaining research councils will be joining the MRC and STFC in using Researchfish to collect information on the outputs and impact of research.

So what? I hear you ask… Well, practically, there is little change for MRC researchers. The system remains open to enter data at any time and this year’s data submission period will go ahead as planned, opening on 16 October and closing on 13 November.

To take into account the addition of five extra research disciplines, there will be some minor changes to the question set.The majority of these changes are to the guidance and help text; however there are a few additional questions where we’ll ask for more detail, for example, the type of further funding and the purpose of an engagement activity.

There is also a new opportunity for you to tell us about your creative side, which Professor Peter Openshaw at Imperial College London might have found helpful last year when letting us know about his 2012 stage performance  — ‘Our germs, our guns: an uneasy peace’ — at the Albert Hall Theatre in Brussels. Read more

Clinical trials: why multi-arms are better than two

A pile of blue and white pillsIn their quest to speed up the discovery of new treatments for patient benefit, MRC researchers at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit propose an efficient solution: the multi-arm clinical trial. But how do these trials work and why should the traditional two-arm clinical trial be the exception and not the rule? We asked Annabelle South, Policy, Communications & Research Impact Coordinator at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit, to explain this change in approach, as published in The Lancet.

Randomised controlled trials are the best way of finding out if new treatments are better than the current standard treatment. But trials take a long time to set up and run, and can be expensive.

Here at the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL we are keen to find faster and more efficient ways of working out which treatments work best, so patients can benefit sooner. That’s why we are urging researchers and drugs companies to move away from the traditional ‘two-arm’ approach to trials, and adopt more innovative, efficient approaches like the multi-arm trial.

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What’s in a work space? Lori Passmore and her images of science

Dr Lori Passmore is head of the Mechanisms of Macromolecular Machines group in the Structural Studies Division at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB). She showed Isabel Baker around her shiny new office where she approaches biological questions using structural biology methods.

Lori Passmore in her office

Coasters

Glass coaster containing EM gridThese coasters were made by a friend of mine who does glass fusing. She’s put some actual electron microscopy (EM) grids, which we use to image proteins, inside the glass. Each grid is 3mm in diameter, made of a disc of metal such as copper or gold, often with a layer of carbon on top. To use these grids in the lab, we pipette a few microlitres of protein in solution on top and remove the excess solution, leaving a thin layer containing the protein. For cryo-EM – where we freeze the samples at liquid nitrogen temperature to preserve them in the vacuum of the microscope – the carbon has holes in it. When you freeze the grid, the protein molecules are trapped in ice suspended across the holes. We then image the protein, in the suspension of ice across the grid. Read more