- 31 December 2013
Dr Barbara Knowles FSB, senior science policy adviser at the Society of Biology, has been awarded an MBE in the 2014 New Year honours list ‘For services to Science Communication and the Environment’.
Barbara said: “I’m delighted with this honour. It is especially welcome that the award recognizes both my professional work in science policy and communications, and also my voluntary work to protect and learn about the outstanding but threatened environment in the eastern Carpathians of Transylvania.
“I’m really lucky to be able to do both jobs with fantastic colleagues in London and Romania despite being increasingly disabled with motor neurone disease. A combination of computer technology, an off-road wheelchair and supportive friends and carers makes it possible to enjoy life, by doing interesting work which I believe to be important and valuable.”
Barbara is a senior science policy adviser to the Society of Biology, where she uses her skills in both policy and communication.
Her main professional interest is communicating science to non-specialists. Previous jobs include assistant director, Science in Society, at the Office of Science and Technology; and deputy head of communications at the Natural Environment Research Council. As a researcher at the University of Cambridge, she investigated how a family of biological insecticides works.
She spends the rest of her time supporting projects on meadow ecology, rural development and traditional agriculture in Transylvania.
In 2008 she was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, an incurable condition. She is now unable to move and will soon lose the ability to speak.
Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, said: “Barbara has used great skill and knowledge alongside incredible drive and determination to make a difference to sustainable development, inspiring others to take up the challenge.
“Her achievements on the ground and through years of high quality science policy advice and leadership at the Society of Biology are brought into even sharper contrast through her personal battle with motor neurone disease. She always has an eye to the next challenge and a ‘glass half full philosophy’ to life. This is a truly well-deserved award.”
Dr Laura Bellingan, director of science policy at the Society of Biology, said: "As well as being a great person, Barbara's clarity of vision is outstanding. She has the ability to see through to the essence of complex issues and distil a compelling tale of discovery or of a solution.
“She loves stories and lessons from ecological science and both passes them on and encourages their application. She is a tremendous collaborator, team-builder and mentor. She uses all these skills both at the Society and to value and protect the beautiful diverse life of Transylvanian hay meadows and the people who rely on them. It is a privilege to work with her and a great pleasure to see her receive this well-deserved honour.”