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Happy New Year

7 January 2010
By Sarah Norcross
Sarah Norcross is Commissioning Editor of BioNews and Director of the charity that publishes it, the Progress Educational Trust (PET)
Appeared in BioNews 540
Welcome back! I just wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on some of our activities from last year and to inform subscribers about what can be expected from the Progress Educational Trust (PET) and BioNews in 2010.

The first edition of BioNews 2010 was originally due to coincide with PET's first event of 2010: Marked for Life: Are Genetic Markers Helpful in Understanding Psychological Disorders? This event has now been postponed due to the adverse weather which has been forecast. This is not a decision which we have taken lightly, as just over 300 people had booked to attend. We are currently working with our partners at the Royal Society of Medicine to reschedule the event for a date in March. As soon as we have the new date, we shall of course let you know.

The event forms part of a broader ongoing PET project entitled Spectrum of Opinion: Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders, which was launched at the Houses of Parliament in 2009. The project will see PET produce a resource pack for school children, containing expert pieces and a glossary of terms. Sandy Starr will be taking the lead on this and use of this resource pack will be piloted in Napier School in Gillingham, Kent, in April.

Looking back over 2009, it was in some respects 'the year of the consultation' and PET responded to calls from the Department of Health, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Human Genetics Commission. We seemed to need an opinion on just about everything - though, luckily, opinions are not in short supply at PET, in fact if there was a cash for opinions scheme I'm sure our funding issues would be resolved in a stroke!

PET's annual conference Epigenetics" title=" and the New Horizon of <a class="udb-glink-hover" href="" data-toggle="popover" data-remotecontent="/page_2365?mode=SIMP" title="Epigenetics">Epigenetics</a>" class="">Does Genetics Matter? Help was extremely well received and was a masterclass in science communication, as it demonstrated the ability of a lay audience to understand some quite complex genetics, from just a ten minute presentation, and to ask questions to further improve their understanding of the science, ethics and policy.

2009 was a busy year for BioNews. BioNews celebrated its tenth birthday and saw its landmark 500th edition in March. Furthermore, the newsletter itself has been revamped and is available in three formats. BioNews now has a new website which not only looks great, but also works better - especially in terms of searching for articles. One new feature is that subscribers to BioNews can now 'have their say' on all the news stories and comment pieces, so if you have an opinion on something we have published please share your views with us and all our other readers by posting a comment at the end of the article. Later in the year, the BioNews editorial team was reshuffled, with Reproduction Editor Dr Kirsty Horsey and newly promoted Genetics Editor Ailsa Stevens being joined by Science Editor Dr Vivienne Raper. Needless to say, the expertise and company of departing Genetics Editor Dr Jess Buxton will be dearly missed - however, we look forward to opportunities to work together with her in the future.

The PET website is the next to be overhauled - this will happen this year and the finished product will mirror the design of the BioNews site and match it for quality of content. One new feature of the site will be the ability to carry out polls, the results of which we will publish in BioNews and use to inform policymakers. This may be quite important as, if 2009 was 'the year of the consultation', then 2010 looks as if it may be 'the year of the review'. The HFEA agreed at its open Authority meeting in December to review a range of its sperm, egg and embryo donation polices over the course of this year. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is updating its clinical guideline on fertility in 2010-11 and so the old recommendations which still have not been fully implemented will also be up for review. Subject to funding, PET will be putting on public debates to raise awareness of and help to inform these policy revisions.

Also in the calendar for 2010 is PET's eighteenth birthday, which we hope to mark with some fun events to celebrate and raise funds. Cuts in funding and increased competition for grants is going to make 2010 another tough year for PET financially. The support of individual donors will be crucial if we are to continue and if you wish BioNews to remain freely available to all. That is why I am urging all our subscribers to make an annual donation of £30 to keep your weekly news roundup dropping into your inbox and becoming a 'Friend' of PET.

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