Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from the Physiological Society

  The Physiological Society is one of the larger member organisations of the Biosciences Federation, which has already submitted a detailed response to the Commons Science and Technology Committee Enquiry. The Biosciences Federation and Institute of Biology represent a total of ~65,000 bioscientists interested in maintaining excellence in research-led teaching in English universities. The Physiological Society endorses the issues raised in the response from the Biosciences Federation.

  The major concerns in our discipline are related to recruitment of talented and motivated A-level science students. School children, who later take up university courses in Physiology and related sciences, are usually enticed into a science curriculum by the practical experiences they have conducting hands-on experiments. We concur with the Biosciences Federation statement that students need to be targeted to elect science options. However, we would advise that students are targeted prior to selection of GCSE courses. This requires placement of highly motivated and qualified science teachers at an early stage in secondary education, and preferably in primary schools. In this context, The Physiological Society has undertaken to train young affiliate members (PhD, postdoc) in Communication Skills so that they can visit both primary and secondary schools to share their enthusiasm for science.

  Universities need to advertise the benefits for PhDs seeking a career in teaching science. This may necessitate continued advertising by government and a clearer statement that highly qualified science PhDs will be well rewarded financially as teachers of science curricula.

  As Physiology is an experimental discipline, training in this field is best served by research-led universities. We agree with the Biosciences Federation response that today's physiology/biomedical students at university do not always receive sufficient transferable laboratory skills. This is largely due to the marked increase in student numbers without increased resourcing from government. The inevitable outcome is that our science BSc graduates are often not well-equipped for laboratory-based PhD research, and often need to spend a 1 year placement in industry or undertake MRes or MSc courses.

January 2005

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