Guy Poppy on scientific impact

"Policymakers are no longer willing to hand over billions of pounds of taxpayers' money to scientists in exchange for a vague promise that something good will come from it."

- Guy Poppy, writing in Nature

Scientists often complain when funding bodies ask them to spend time writing convincing appeals for how their experiments might one day benefit society - their so-called 'impact'. Poppy, who is both professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton and chief scientific adviser for the Food Standards Agency, is no stranger to the wider-world implications of research. He argues that scientists can no longer work in a bubble, unaware of the outside world and what effect they are - or are not - having on it.

What is really needed, Poppy says, is the type of person who will "frequently swap between academia, industry and policy". But the university incentive system is such that excursions outside of the ivory tower are still frowned upon. This needs to change if scientists are to truly make a difference.