SEB - positively charged!

09 Jul 2015 - By: Caroline Wood

SEB - positively charged! 

By Caroline Wood

“It’s goodbye from me and it’s goodbye from EPA!”  

This was the dramatic opening speech from Alun Anderson (acting chair of SEB’s Education and Public Affairs, or ‘EPA’, Section) to a very lively launch party-cum-retirement celebration held at the SEB Annual Meeting in Prague. Since the establishment in 1998 of what was originally known as the Education Committee, SEB has long been committed to enhancing all areas of its members’ careers, including activities outside of their main research. However, over the years, and even since its evolution to the Education & Public Affairs Section in 2008, under the presidency of Ian Johnston, the EPA Section has tended to be seen as an “outside category”, rather than pivotal to the SEB’s main activities in relation to its Plant, Animal and Cell Sections. 

To address this, SEB is relaunching EPA, not only with the more dynamic name “SEB+”, but also to integrate its activities within and across the SEB sections. Meanwhile, the scope of the new SEB+ Section is being broadened to encompass four key areas: Teaching and Learning, Science Communication, Career Development and Equality and Diversity. This list is by no means exhaustive and SEB+ is actively welcoming members to suggest other important research-associated areas of interest, as well as letting SEB+ know whether they would like to become involved. 

As Alun steps down as chair, he hands over the reins to George Littlejohn (Exeter University), who is excited about the challenge of leading this exhilarating new chapter in the SEB:  “This rebranding is an excellent opportunity to become much more involved in what we are trying to do”, George said. “By getting more membership involvement and building capacity we will be able to do more and really help to enhance the careers of our early career scientists and students”. 

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Alun Anderson (left) speaking at the SEB Annual meeting in Prague with new SEB+ chair George Littlejohn (right)

With some of the current EPA Section and a crowd of meeting delegates watching on, Alun gave a toast and the new SEB+ was officially launched. However, it was clear that this wasn’t simply a case of relaunching the same product in new packaging.  Sarah Blackford, the head of EPA said: “This is so much more than refreshing the logo – it’s about taking seriously the extra work people do around their research – not just teaching and learning, but science communication, science policy and career development. We’re just at the starting point now - we’ve got a strategy and now we’re going to put it into action!” 

Many SEB members at the launch party agreed that the new section will offer greater potential to support researchers summed up by Zoe Self (Royal Veterinary College, UK): “SEB+ is more encompassing than the EPA because it takes into account more than education and public affairs – as someone who does outreach and engagement work, it’s nice to feel there is a space for me in there!” There was also a general feeling that the SEB’s dedication to their members’ wider interests and issues sets it apart from other learned societies: “I’m a member of a lot of engineering and biology societies” said David Taylor (Trinity College, Dublin),  “but with the SEB, I get the impression that something is always happening. I would give up my membership to most of the other societies before I gave up my membership to the SEB!” 

Clearly, SEB+ will not be starting from scratch, rather it will build on the EPA’s excellent record of achievement, including its recent successful Teaching and Learning symposia and sessions, a much-expanded programme of career development support and collaborative work with some of SEB’s sister organisations such as science communication training and science policy. If you would like to get involved with SEB+ to develop its agenda or help build its support for the bioscience community further contact Sarah Blackford ( We look forward to working with you. 


Author: Caroline Wood
Category: SEB+ News
Caroline Wood-Profile_opt (1)

Caroline Wood

Caroline Wood was the SEB’s 2014 science communication intern. Since then, Caroline has been a regular contributor the SEB, reporting on events and writing insightful features for our members.

Caroline has an undergraduate degree from Durham University in Cell Biology and is currently a PHD student at Sheffield University studying parasitic Striga weeds that infect food crops. You can read her blog here