Re-entry is the most dangerous phase of the mission (I have been inspired to use space analogies!)
06 September 2018 by David Bott
I took the opportunity of lots of cancelled meetings to work at home on Monday – which also meant I preserved my record with respect to Start the Week meetings!
Tuesday was down to London. The morning was mainly concerned with Foresight. Martin Glasspool, who seems to have been appointed by Sandy to act as contact person to us, had arranged for me to meet Averil Horton. When I turned up she was already in a meeting with Allyson, so I just joined in. Averill seems to be coming to terms with the role and we all made nice noises. I then met with Martin to agree the agenda for the next group-to-group meeting. This is will be held on October 8th and it’s their turn to tell us what they are doing. There will be a session covering their soon to be finished SEMBE work, which parallels and has worked with LIB, and their just starting “food and farming” work, but the main session will be on exploring possible links between us and the Mental Capital and Well-Being work.
The afternoon was our first real team-to-team meeting with NESTA. We had promised this when we held our meeting at NESTA what seems like an age ago, but they seemed to keep putting it off. We went down to Plough Place mob-handed and took them through the existing Innovation Platforms. As is normal when we field the arguments properly and highlight the overlaps, we ended up with lots of discussion and a much greater understanding on their side (probably a bit better on our side too, if the truth were told). We will now hold even more focused meetings on LIB and AL but we have also discovered yet another bit of NESTA we ought to talk to and are setting that up.
The evening saw a dinner with Andy Burnett, the facilitator par excellence of sandpits, who has agreed to “do” digital economy one in December. His vegetarian religion limited where we could eat, but over pasta we came up with enough ideas to scare the EPSRC. We will probably hold some of the meeting on the Technology Strategy Board island in Second Life – which means that Paul W and I ought to get on and design it and get it “built” - and want to have “virtual” participants in the sandpit. The response from the EPSRC will be kept and used in evidence against them in the future!!
Wednesday was another day for cancelled meetings, but I was in London and got involved in the debate about what some high ranking politician can and should say about the various activities on low carbon transport. I expressed some surprise that having actually got its act together and helped the various departments and agencies work together in a “joined up” way, the announcements were all in terms of separate and uncorrelated activities and made us all look like a bunch of wallies.
Thursday started with a visit to the 10th birthday party for the Toshiba Telecommunications Research Laboratory in Bristol. It was quite fun meeting so many of Iain's friends. The science was good too – and well explained. The observation that this type of research can be done in converted office blocks in the middle of town without the need for special air and waste handling systems interested me – as a lapsed chemist. Lunch at the Hotel du Vin was improved by conversations with a guy from Toshiba who sells scanners and shared a great story about the cost justification of a £1.5m MRI scanner in terms of health economics – he has promised to send me the names of the Germans who did the work – he could find no-one good enough in the UK!! Oh, and the mayor, who knows Iain, offered the use of the Mansion House for parties.
Friday saw me fitting various short meetings around the media training, which was excellent. My take away message from the feedback was that we all are getting good at telling specific stories but we haven’t got a credible and concise way of explaining our purpose and no sufficiently good excuses for our name.
The weekend has seen my final preparations for the Research Assessment Exercise meeting in the Lake District. Not content with making me read 450+ scientific papers, I have also had to read the submission by all the UK chemistry departments and – my special role – judge their performance in wider interaction (i.e. beyond the science community). This meant reading every word and looking for the (often) vague references to this (what many seem to see as a) diversion from the day job. I don’t think I am going to enjoy the next phase!!!