This week at the Progress Educational Trust (16 December 2014)
The Progress Educational Trust (PET) is still getting its breath back, after organising its biggest and best-attended Annual Conference to date - 'The Commercialisation of Life'. The conference saw University College London's Institute of Child Health packed with patients, professionals, academics, members of the public and a large party of school pupils, to explore the role of commerce in genetics and fertility treatment.
The conference boasted a stellar lineup of speakers, including Professor Lord Robert Winston, Dr Kári Stefánsson, Professor Julian Savulescu, Peter Thompson, Professor Willem Ombelet, Dr Clare Gerada, Baroness Ruth Deech, Dr Stuart Hogarth, Jeremy Laurance, Dr Yacoub Khalaf, Vivienne Parry, Professor Sarah Franklin and John Parsons.
PET is still going through audience feedback, which so far has been overwhelmingly positive. One typical message received by PET is as follows: 'This is just a short note to thank you all for putting together such an interesting and informative conference. The speakers and chairs were terrific, the welcome was warm - I ended the day feeling that I had a treat.'
There was lively discussion on social media before, during and after the conference, which you can read via Storify here. Several journalists also attended the conference, and reported on it in articles such as:
Unfortunately, all three articles above are behind paywalls, meaning that you can only read them if you pay to subscribe to the relevant publications. But PET is currently publishing free-to-read summaries of the conference sessions, in its own flagship publication BioNews. Read the first two:
Like these articles, subscription to BioNews is completely free, and you can subscribe to the weekly BioNews email newsletter here. All PET asks is that if you find BioNews useful, then you consider becoming a Friend of PET for as little as £3 a month, making a regular donation so that the charity's work can continue throughout 2015 and beyond.
Sarah has also been to the Houses of Parliament to discuss NHS funding of fertility treatment with Sir Roger Gale, Conservative MP for North Thanet. And together with PET Adviser Dr Kirsty Horsey, Sarah attended a 'Surrogacy Supper Club' organised by the law firm Collyer Bristow, where other attendees included Jessica Lee (Conservative MP for Erewash) and Sir Anthony Hayden (a High Court Judge in the Family Division).
Elsewhere, Sarah attended meetings of Fertility Fairness (an organisation of which she is Co-Chair) and of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's National Donation Strategy Group and the National Gamete Donation Trust's Advisory Council (both bodies on which she serves). Together with a number of people in PET's orbit, Sarah then had a much-deserved drink at the Christmas Party of the Science Media Centre, a charity whose Director Fiona Fox is PET's Chair of Trustees.
The main subject of discussion at the Christmas Party was a study in the British Medical Journal of the role that press releases play in the exaggeration of findings from health research. Fiona's own piece on this subject, 'Abandon Hype All', is well worth reading as we head into 2015.