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Happy birthday to us

23 March 2009
Appeared in BioNews 500
We at BioNews are celebrating its 10th birthday this week, with the publication of our 500th weekly email newsletter. Created and launched in 1999 by Juliet Tizzard - the first director of Progress Educational Trust (PET) - as a news round-up service for a few hundred interested people, BioNews now has an international readership of thousands. It provides weekly news and comment to an eclectic mix of subscribers, including scientists, teachers, students, clinicians, patients, journalists, ethicists and policymakers - both via the weekly email and the BioNews website.

In our respective roles as Genetics and Reproduction Editors of BioNews since 2001, we've covered many exciting and controversial developments in assisted conception, human genetics and embryo research. It has been fascinating to research and write about all developments in these areas over this period of time - a lot has happened! Not least among this in a scientific sense has been the development of what is really an 'offshoot' of one of these areas - human embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research - which BioNews has been keeping an interested eye on since its infancy. Last year's passage of new UK legislation on human fertilisation and embryology and, even more recently, Barack Obama's lifting of the federal funding ban for ES cell research in the US also feel like important milestones. Over the years we have also enjoyed reporting stories on advances in areas such as embryo testing, genome science, egg freezing, stem cells and animal cloning, to name just a few - and equally, to report on the legal, social and ethical debates they have sparked. Similarly, we have also enjoyed 'setting the record straight' and de-hyping stories where necessary.

During the past decade we've witnessed the exponential growth of online news coverage - the days of sifting through a daily pile of newspapers, snipping out and photocopying stories of interest, then trying to follow them up with online sources or in hard copies of scientific journals seem very far away. But if all news developments are now available instantly via the click of a mouse - or even direct to people's mobile phones - is there really still a need for a specialist news service like BioNews? We believe there is (and not just because we're the Editors!) - if anything, the huge volume of news coverage in the digital age makes an expert specialist 'filter' service like BioNews even more vital.

We have also seen BioNews' role as a forum for balanced debate grow in importance over the years. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has ever written 'Commentaries' for BioNews, sometimes at very short notice! Your contributions are vital as they help us to ensure that BioNews continues to represent a wide range of viewpoints on the issues we cover. On this - if you have something to say and we haven't contacted you - please feel free to contact us!

In 10 years, BioNews has expanded both in the breadth and length of its coverage, mirroring the pace of progress in these areas of medical science. We coped pretty well for a while, but following this expansion, we were delighted when Ailsa Stevens, PET's Science Information Officer, joined the BioNews editorial team in 2008. Her help has been invaluable! We'd also like to extend our grateful thanks to our ever-growing dedicated team of volunteers, who write news stories for BioNews in their spare time - we really couldn't do it without you. Further, we would like to thank the directors and trustees of PET, past and present, for their flexibility and support, without which BioNews would not have developed as it has. In particular, we would like to thank Professor Marcus Pembrey, PET's founding and current chair, for his unwavering enthusiasm and tireless fundraising efforts on behalf of BioNews and PET's other activities.

Looking to the future, we are very excited that in 2009 we will see a complete overhaul of the BioNews website and email, thanks to the generous support of the UK's Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust. The updated site will continue to provide news and comment on topical developments, but in addition will allow us to develop new ways of facilitating informed debate.

As editors, we strongly believe that BioNews should remain independent and also free for all to access - if you agree, and would like to help us do so, please consider making a donation to our '500

Fivers' Birthday Appeal, either online or by sending a cheque (payable to Progress Educational Trust) to:

Progress Educational Trust
140 Gray's Inn Road

So, happy birthday to us - and here's to the next ten years!

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