Plant scientists and microbiologists ask: "What's important to you?"

1st Jul 2015

The future of global agriculture, the ability of plants to adapt to a changing climate, and issues of antibiotic resistance are just some of the areas being discussed by participants in an online community designed to input into a strategy for publically-funded science.

The John Innes Centre, one of the UK’s leading research institutes in plant science and microbiology, is seeking public views as it considers a new five-year research cycle.

So far, more than 450 people have signed up to take part in the online community at, with registrations open until 3 July 2015.

JIC Director Professor Dale Sanders said: “We want to understand those areas on which the public place a particular importance – this will enable scientists to consider these principles in relation to their own research programmes.”

The online community is being run by the social research institute Ipsos MORI. It is part of a wider dialogue project at JIC, with the whole project being independently evaluated.

Enormous technological advances over the past decade have revolutionised insights into the basic biology of plants and microbes. Understanding this biology is, in turn, enabling scientists at JIC to unlock solutions to issues that have concerned mankind for centuries – from maximizing crop yield to prevention of human infection. New opportunities for development of strategies for environmentally sustainable agriculture and improved human health are constantly emerging as a result of fundamental research at JIC.

Professor Sanders continued: “Emerging technologies have really enhanced the way we carry out our experiments – the speed of research is changing year on year. It’s important that we, as scientists, have a good understanding of how the public view our science, including those topics that they’d like to hear more about.”

The institute receives most of its income from the UK government via the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which sets overall strategic research aims for the country. The BBSRC is a partner in the dialogue along with support from Sciencewise, the UK’s national centre for public dialogue in policy-making involving science and technology issues.

The John Innes Centre dialogue project has also seen public workshops in Norwich and in Birmingham.

For more information, or to register to take part in the online dialogue, see

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