VOLUME 4 - ISSUE 3 - PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE
I am writing this piece for pA2 having just returned from a wonderful trip to the IUPHAR meeting in Beijing, after which I made a brief sojourn to see the terracotta army in Xian. But more of this later.
In the week before IUPHAR the Society held the summer celebration of our 75th Anniversary at the London Zoo. Full marks to Clive Page and his sub-committee for selecting such an unusual and fascinating venue for this event. There was a large turnout of members, partners and guests. The food, wine and music were excellent and even the weather, over which the organisers had no control, was good; the sun shone and the evening temperature was pleasantly warm. A few of the photographs taken at this event are reproduced on page 17 of this issue.
Initially the fine weather produced a rather unfortunate problem for our guest speaker Mark Lythgoe, from the Brain Imaging Centre at UCL. He arrived to find that the outdoor auditorium at London Zoo was covered only by a white canvas awning and that the light colours on some of his slides were bleached by the evening sun. But not to worry: while members gathered in the gardens, Mark set about changing all his colour slides to black on white. Thank heavens for Powerpoint.
Mark delivered a fascinating, interactive presentation on the nature of personality and brain structure. His enthusiastic and provocative style soon had the audience shouting out responses which is quite unheard of for pharmacologists attending a scientific lecture. Most of the audience were relieved to discover that as biologists, pharmacologists are not so obsessive that they can be classified as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, unlike members of some other scientific disciplines. It is just a pity for our students and work colleagues that we do not rank highly on the empathy scale either.
Then it was on to Beijing, where the BPS anniversary celebrations continued and where the Society made a big effort to publicise our activities and our journals to the Chinese, who are certainly en route to becoming a major scientific nation. We had two display stands providing information on the Society, its journals and pharma-CAL-ogy. We even had BPS display posters in Mandarin! I am not sure what they said but the Chinese delegates who visited the stands were very impressed. We gave away more than 400 free copies of each of the BJP Special Edition and the Guide to Receptors and Channels as well as copies of the June issue of the BJCP that had been specially prepared for IUPHAR with a distinct Chinese flavour. Members who have attended previous celebratory events in Bristol or Edinburgh will already have seen the chic new BPS carrier bags. These proved extremely popular with young Chinese scientists and became a must-have fashion accessory.
Rod Flower presented the 75th Anniversary Lecture at IUPHAR in his usual erudite manner and this was followed by a splendid drinks reception to which the British Ambassador turned up en route to the 4th July celebrations at the American Embassy. BPS members from around the globe attended the reception, as well as representatives from each of the national pharmaco-logical societies present at IUPHAR. The Society was presented with several lovely gifts to mark our anniversary and, although the ornamental bowl from the Chinese Society would look lovely on my mantelpiece, all of the gifts will be put on display at Angel Gate. Many guests spoke with warmth about the BPS. Indeed, it was gratifying and slightly embarrassing to discover just how highly regarded our Society is throughout the world.
Members in the UK may have been a bit taken aback to wake one morning in mid-July to Jim Naughtie on the Today programme pronouncing on the lack of pharmacology and clinical pharmacology, particularly prescribing, being taught to medical students in the UK. This was the result of a press briefing that the BPS sponsored in conjunction with the Science Media Centre (see full report on page 14). The Society has for some time been providing journalists with expert advice but up until now we have done this in a reactive rather than a pro-active manner. Following our recent Strategy Review, it was agreed that it was time the BPS set the agenda and raised issues with the media it thinks topical.
There are advantages and dis-advantages in dealing with the press in this way. The advantages are that the BPS chooses the topic and can provide appropriate briefing papers as well as supporting published evidence. The disadvantages are first, we cannot gauge in advance the level of press interest and second, we have no control over the spin that may be put on our message. Thus, it came as a pleasant surprise that in this instance we received wide coverage on television, radio and in national newspapers. Unfortunately, the headline writers had a field day with the story running under banners such as ‘Young doctors kill patients’. However, across the board our message was reported correctly and has certainly been noted by the medical professional organisations.
There are as yet no specific plans for the next press briefing. It is the significance of the subject matter, not the frequency of each briefing, that is important. As a society with members in academia, industry and the health service we can only highlight issues on which we have highlight issues of broad agreement across the membership. One thing we will do in the future is alert members in advance to any upcoming press briefings and provide them with copies of the briefing notes in order that they know exactly what the message is that we are putting out and can inform the discussion of the topic within their own institution.
Finally, on your behalf, I would like to congratulate our Hon Treasurer, Arthur Weston, who was elected President of EPHAR at its recent General Assembly. I must consult Debrett’s to find out if I have to touch my forelock before addressing him in future. More seriously, Arthur’s appointment is a good one for EPHAR. His enthusiasm and financial acumen will help this fledgling organisation define and expand its role as a scientific organisation.