A BioImagingUK Network: A Scientific Community Defining Strategic Initiatives for UK BioImaging.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Life Sciences

Abstract

By its very nature, cutting edge imaging depends on advanced hardware and expert personnel. In most cases, UK life scientists and medical researchers have access to the imaging infrastructures necessary to support their immediate work and significant investments by UK Research Councils and charities have built a number of world-class imaging facilities in academic departments and institutes across the UK. The imaging facilities at any individual institution, however, are usually driven by the local research priorities and not all imaging modalities at any single institution are at the state of the art. Furthermore, over the last decade enormous leaps have been made in imaging technology with advances in resolution, speed, sensitivity, signal processing, functional readouts and biophysical modelling - now reaching previously unimagined capabilities. The increasing sophistication and concomitant expense and complexity of this new technology, however, make it impractical to build and run cutting edge imaging technology at every site in the UK. While several individual sites have established specific expertise in one or more of these emerging imaging technologies, no single institution can provide all the imaging capabilities that can now be applied to biological questions and which will become increasingly necessary in modern bioscience. Nonetheless, if UK life scientists and medical researchers are going to stay at the international forefront of their fields, they need access to all of these technologies. Thus there is a critical need to define the imaging instrumentation and personnel infrastructure, access policies, and sustainable support mechanisms that must underpin UK science going forward.

We have built BioImagingUK (http://bioimaginguk.org), a grassroots initiative to define strategic priorities, access policies, and sustainable practices for UK imaging science. That effort has built an aligned, committed consortium of imaging scientists and technologists who have contributed to a clear, public statement of strategy and policy for UK bioimaging.
To date, BioImagingUK's activities include a series of community activities centred on organising our priorities, developing strategic statements, representing the interests of the UK bioimaging scientists, and coordinating UK's response to Euro-BioImaging's evolving activities and calls for proposals.

This proposal seeks the first formal funding for BioImagingUK, to form a UK Network, that will be used to continue and expand BioImagingUK's activities.

Technical Summary

We have built BioImagingUK (http://bioimaginguk.org), a grassroots initiative to define strategic priorities, access policies, and sustainable practices for UK imaging science. That effort has built an aligned, committed consortium of imaging scientists and technologists who have contributed to a clear, public statement of strategy and policy for UK bioimaging.
To date, BioImagingUK's activities include a series of community activities centred on organising our priorities, developing strategic statements, representing the interests of the UK bioimaging scientists, and coordinating UK's response to Euro-BioImaging's evolving activities and calls for proposals. Since our founding in 2009, we have:

1. Held several open meetings of the UK bioimaging community to define actions, strategy and planning (http://bioimaginguk.org/index.php/Meetings_Page);
2. Convened a meeting of >70 UK bioimaging scientists in July 2012, and released a public summary of the priorities the meeting defined, the BioImagingUK Strategy Meeting Summary (http://bioimaginguk.org/images/0/04/BioImagingUK_Meeting_Summary_v5.pdf);
3. Presented the case for community-led strategic prioritization at several UK imaging meetings (e.g., http://www.rms.org.uk/events/pastevents/index/frontiersinbioimaging; http://www.rms.org.uk/Resources/Royal Microscopical Society/Events/fmm-2014-provisional-programme-7.pdf);
4. Represented the UK at Euro-BioImaging Stakeholder & Steering Committee Meetings (http://www.eurobioimaging.eu/content-page/united-kingdom; http://www.eurobioimaging.eu/content-page/euro-bioimaging-steering-committee) and coordinated submission of the UK's Expressions of Interest for Euro-BioImaging Nodes (http://www.eurobioimaging.eu/content-page/first-euro-bioimaging-open-call-nodes-parta-archive-information)

This proposal seeks the first formal funding for BioImagingUK, to form a UK Network, that will be used to continue and expand BioImagingUK's activities.

Planned Impact

The impacts generated by the BioImagingUK Network will all involve benefits to the wider scientific community-from funders, technologists, all scientists from PhD students to academic staff, and ultimately the broader community. :
1. We will continue to develop interaction and communication within the existing BioImagingUK community energising collaboration and community communication and participation.

2. We will develop a number of resources of online public resources defining priorities and opportunities for investment for the larger UK scientific community. The reports generated by BioImagingUK will provide a strategic coherent statement for funders and applicants to align their future calls and applications to defined priorities for the UK scientific community.

3. BioImagingUK's commitment to public online publication will serve as a clear statement of how scientific communities in the UK and elsewhere can organise and communicate their priorities.

4. The BioImagingUK Network will improve the quality of training capability and activity in the UK and hopefully in the Rest of World. The resources we will develop will establish the BioImagingUK Network as a an authoritative resource for information on imaging to a wider and scientific public communities.

5. Our reports on career and investment in imaging technologists and the output of their work will serve as a concrete statement of the critical contributions of these individuals in the UK sciences and drive the discussion for providing for these critical personnel with universities and funding agencies.

6. Our on-going efforts to extend our communities to include other scientific domains in medicine, pathology and material sciences will enable the interactions between different research councils and different funding bodies and provide community based rational for these interactions.

7. Our willingness to define points of synergy and interaction while respecting the differences between communities can serve as a template for the ways different scientific communities can talk to another and indeed develop synergetic interactions.

Publications

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Description Community: Four on-line resources for information exchange have been built and/or maintained. In particular, the most complex and staff-requiring resource has been built and hosted through a close collaboration with the Royal Microscopical Society (RMS):

• The UK Imaging Facilities Database (https://www.rms.org.uk/network-collaborate/facilities-database.html): the definitive list of BioImaging resources within the UK; what we have, where its located, and its level of access. This is hosted, run and curated through resources provided by the RMS.
• BioImagingUK Wiki (http://bioimaginguk.org): a central location for information about community activities. This is hosted, run, and archived through servers at the University of Dundee
• BioImagingUK mailing list: an open, by subscription mailing list that the community uses to announce meetings, jobs , government consultations etc
• BioImagingUK Twitter- @BioImagingUK (as of 5 Nov 2018, >1000 followers)

BioImagingUK helped the UK imaging community to speak with one voice in response to numerous public government consultations. BioImagingUK collated and coordinated evidence and submitted responses to five UK Government consultations:
• 2017 - Closing the STEM Skills Gap Request for Evidence
• 2017 - UK Bioeconomy Call for Evidence
• 2015 - The Nurse Review of Research Councils
• 2015 - joint BBSRC/EPSRC/MRC consultation on 'Technology Touching Life'
• 2014 - BIS consultation

In addition, members of BioImagingUK made significant contributions to BBSRC's Strategic Review of BioImaging, published on mid 2018 (https://bbsrc.ukri.org/about/reviews/scientific-areas/bbsrc-strategic-review-of-bioimaging/). All of the survey, data review and drafting of this important report was performed during the term of the first Network. Given the national scope of this effort to assess landscape and define national priorities, we held off scheduling national meetings until after this report was released, which unfortunately wasn't publicly released until after the term of the first Network award.

We organised meetings including:
• 2018 - BioImagingUK Meeting at WT
• 2014 - BioImagingUK Meeting at LRI (pre-award?)
• BioImagingUK updates presented at UKLMF meetings in 2017 and 2018

Careers for Imaging Scientists: BioImagingUK has studied and surveyed Imaging Scientists, the backbone of the UK's activity in bioimaging (https://imagingscientist.com). Interviews with Imaging Scientists at all levels revealed a striking diversity in the way different institutions handled performance evaluation and career progression of these critical staff. As noted by Mike Ferguson (Regius Professor, University of Dundee, Deputy Chair, Wellcome Trust Board of Governors), Universities and research institutions have the remit to deliver sound, strategic career paths for Imaging Scientists and RTPs. This remit has not been matched by sufficient funding and this causes a heterogeneous, uncertain career environment for these scientists. With this evidence, BioImagingUK will work to make differences in career opportunities in different institutions transparent and engage with UK facilities and universities to improve career trajectories for UK Imaging Scientists. As one recent example of this kind of advocacy, BioImagingUK recently presented its work on Imaging Scientists at the Research Sector Visit for Civil Servants from across all government departments, that took place at the Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridge (18 Oct 2018). This provided an important forum to present the diversity of skills required and roles taken by Imaging Scientists, as well as the critical role they play in the globally competitive performance of UK science.
Exploitation Route BioImagingUK is comprised of committed, community active scientists at all these levels-- facility staff and managers as well as leading academic researchers-- who engage with their individual institutions as well as national and transnational scientific and policy programmes. Therefore, we can integrate and represent community experience as well as national and international strategic trends. This is important as the UK's development and application of bioimaging technology is and must remain scientifically competitive. Through continuous discussions and engagement with RTP Imaging Scientists (e.g. at our Facility managers meetings) BioImagingUK will provide a voice for their concerns, collate data on career structures, job descriptions and impact generation across HEIs and other institutions and feed this back to Funders and the Concordat Strategy group with recommendations on how we can improve working environments to further develop and retain this important UK talent pool. We also aim to highlight job descriptions and opportunities that include clear performance criteria and confirm adoption of Team Science principles (for example, see https://www.imagingscientist.com/team-science.html) on our mailing lists and Twitter accounts. This 'bottom-up' approach is an important way to inform on future strategies in this area, and no other mechanisms are currently in place to achieve this.
Sectors Other

 
Description Biological imaging is increasingly recognised as sufficiently complex, intensive, and important for the achievement of national goals that it warrants coordination and funding efforts similar to CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), Iinstruct ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium), and other trans-national research infrastructures. This need for co-ordination of efforts both at national and international levels has arisen from the proliferation of methods and technologies in BioImaging, increasing levels of specialisation, and the need to develop know-how, share experience, and encourage knowledge transfer. This recognition led to the formation of Euro-BioImaging (EuBI) with funding of the EuBI preparatory phase in 2010 (EC), leading to interim operation in 2016, with further funding to develop the EuBI EricERIC. EuBI is widely supported by the European research community, consisting of 25 European countries and over 3000 stakeholders. This organisation and co-operation of the Bio-imaging community in Europe has been driven by, and continues to drive, a change in the landscape of infrastructure for biological imaging. Alongside this European initiative, the UK has also driven greater coordination of our research efforts through BioImaging UK, supported by our first network grant (Dec14-Dec17). The UK was an early advocate of national-level organisation, due in part to the unique presence and mission of the Royal Microscopical Society (RMS). The RMS helped to develop the UK BioImagingUK network, for example through its support in organising facility managers meetings (for light microscopy (UKLMF) and electron microscopy (UKEMF)), and its help in coordinating and host a database of bioimaging facilities. UK BioImagingUK facilities were organised long before their European counterparts, which helped give an edge to UK science. BioImaging UK, funded by a previous Nnetwork grant (Ref: BB/M005062/1) has been able to contribute to these efforts in three main ways: 1. Holding meetings to define strategic priorities (e.g. meeting held at the Wellcome Trust in 2012, and subsequent meetings at Microscopy Congresses); 2. Participating and supporting the BBSRC Strategic Review of BioImaging, published in July 2018, 3. Carrying out an in-depth survey of career structure for imaging specialists, working in BioImaging facilities, and starting the challenging task of evaluating their contributions to overall UK research efforts through publications, contributions to research grants etc, which we summarised in a report and through the provision of a new website: http://imagingscientist.com and Twitter feed (#imagingscientist) with interviews of Imaging scientists throughout the UK at a variety of levels, explaining their contributions, and how universities and research institutes engage with these critical staff. 4. Providing support for the Nnetwork (through a WIKI, email list server, etc).
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Other
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description BioImagingUK Community Network
Amount £121,777 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/S018689/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 04/2022
 
Description Euro-BioImaging 
Organisation Euro-BioImaging
Country European Union (EU) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution BioImagingUK connects with Euro-BioImaging to provide feedback and updates on then status and priorities of the UK imaging community.
Collaborator Contribution Euro-BioImaging
Impact Ongoing work during Euro-BioImaging Interim Phase
Start Year 2009