Toasting ten

A year of activities and events marking a decade since the formation of the Society comes to an end this month

28th September 2020 

From October 2019 to the end of September 2020 the RSB embarked on a special programme of activity marking 10 years since the formation of the Society and 40 years since its predecessor organisation, the Institute of Biology, was granted a Royal Charter to represent biologists.

The aim of the anniversary year was not only to communicate the role of the RSB and its achievements during that time, but to celebrate the success of biological discovery, increase understanding and appreciation of the biosciences, and to inspire and reach people of all ages and backgrounds to consider a career in biology.

The year started with the launch of a dedicated anniversary logo and website. A special issue of The Biologist featured reflections on the founding of the Society and an interview with Professor Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of CRISPR gene-editing technology, arguably the most powerful scientific innovation of the last decade.

Also in October, the three presidents of the Royal Society of Biology, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics sat down for a candid interview with Professor Dame Athene Donald FRSB as part of this year’s Daphne Jackson Trust Conference. The four women discussed a number of topics, including career challenges, benefits of joining a professional society and future aspirations for the scientific community.

At the start of 2020 an online fundraising raffle offered the chance to win prizes – including a VIP safari – while supporting the global biosciences community. All proceeds went towards funding the RSB’s charitable work.

Aerial view of the Hintze HallThe RSB's Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Science Museum, London. 

Thankfully, the year’s pinnacle anniversary event, the Anniversary Gala Dinner featuring Sir David Attenborough, took place a matter of weeks before lockdown measures were put in place in March. More than 300 guests and 15 sponsors – representing learned societies, universities, research councils and industry – watched Sir David accept the Society’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding career in broadcasting and his work to raise the profile of biology and the natural world.

The event, held in the stunning Making the Modern World gallery of the Science Museum, raised a further £9,000 for the Society’s charitable work. This includes the awarding of 10 special Big Biology Day grants to fund bioscience outreach events in the UK and internationally, which will be held when restrictions on large gatherings ease.

The Society also used the anniversary to launch a new award, the RSB Apprentice of the Year, to celebrate apprentices and recognise their contribution to bioscience, as part of the Society’s
wider work supporting technical staff. The Pioneers of Biology series celebrated bioscientists and their achievements in different locations around the UK, although sadly some of the in-person events have been postponed.

In May the RSB ran an online campaign to celebrate the breadth and diversity of its 17,500-strong membership. The month-long #MembershipMay social media campaign highlighted ways in which the Society supports its members, provided information on membership grades and guidance on how to join.

As part of the anniversary year, the RSB has also produced a series of infographics detailing the impact the Society has had over the past 10 years in a range of areas, from influencing government policy to helping develop biology curricula in the UK.

The year will end with a special edition of Emerging Topics in Life Sciences, the journal co-owned by the RSB and the Biochemical Society. The issue reviews the key fields that have emerged in the last decade, including mitochondrial donation, directed evolution, and approaches to maintaining biodiversity. The issue will be free to read for a month until 11th October.

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