The story of GEN day
At the John Innes Centre our research is split into four Institute Strategic Programmes (ISPs), these are how we receive our core-funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The ISPs are;
Together, the 4 ISPs represent our core areas of scientific research which include but are not limited to tacking; food security, human health and industrial biotechnology.
The core aim of the Genes in the Environment (GEN) programme is to develop a wider understanding of how the environment influences plant growth and development. As such, GEN’s work is crucial for improving the stability and capacity of crop yields – an important objective as crop growing conditions become increasingly unpredictable in a changing climate.
Through programmes such as GEN, we can grow the knowledge needed to breed more resilient and productive crops that can cope with changing environmental conditions and a growing world population.
The 5-year ISP’s were funded by BBSRC from April 2017. With the programmes now established, we took the opportunity to look at how one of these, GEN, is promoting and benefiting from sharing knowledge and skills within the programme.
To do this, the GEN programme held a mini, discussion-led, conference, to bring everyone working in the ISP together.
The idea was to encourage scientists at all levels of the programme including PhD students, research assistants, postdocs and senior scientists, the chance to mingle together and discuss what they’re currently working on, the skills they have developed and future research directions, as well as connecting with potential future collaborators.
GEN Programme Manager, Natalie Wager, explained: the day gave people “the opportunity to have their voices heard about the research that takes place” and points out that a collaborative, rather than “top-down” approach, gives people an environment where great ideas and discussions can take place.
This bottom-up culture of sharing knowledge, expertise and ideas is a vital part of our working culture and improves the rate of development and efficiency of the research conducted at the John Innes Centre.
Despite already working in the same ISP, many people said the day gave them a chance to meet new people and discover what can be achieved by broadening the conversation about their research.
Professor Wendy Harwood, Crop Transformation Group Leader, said about the day, “I got to talk to people I would not normally on a day-to-day basis so [it was] really useful to get a different view on what we’re doing.”
Billy Aldridge, a 4th year PhD student, enjoyed the day because it gave him “a lot more understanding of where everyone fits in with the ISP and what the ISP funds and what can be achieved from everyone working together.”
Similarly, postdoctoral scientist Pawel Mikulski said, “I got to know what other people are doing and what they can do for me and I can find some potential links for collaboration”.
The success of GEN day has encouraged the team to consider making it an annual event, and even holding similar days within our other ISPs, which we hope to announce shortly.