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Connecting the Dots

The establishment of the Community for Analytical Measurement Science (CAMS) (1) (learn more, here) is a landmark moment for analytical science in the UK. If you look back over the past decade, there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards the “measurement” sciences – driven in part by the publication of two major reviews. The first, a landscaping exercise by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in 2015, was quickly followed by a report by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) (2). Both acknowledged the value of analytical science in the UK, but also highlighted that there is a significant gap between theory and practice.

The establishment of the Community for Analytical Measurement Science (CAMS) (1) (learn more, here) is a landmark moment for analytical science in the UK. If you look back over the past decade, there has been a significant shift in attitudes towards the “measurement” sciences – driven in part by the publication of two major reviews. The first, a landscaping exercise by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in 2015, was quickly followed by a report by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) (2). Both acknowledged the value of analytical science in the UK, but also highlighted that there is a significant gap between theory and practice.

The all-encompassing nature of analytical science is both a gift and a curse. The field’s value is often overlooked. Many people describe measurement science as a utility – like electricity and water – which you may not fully appreciate because they are ubiquitous. It’s only when they vanish that you recognize – in haste – their value. When everything is progressing well, people carry out their measurements without a care in the world; only when things go wrong do they pay more attention.

The challenge lies in tying together every aspect of analytical science to form an effective community structure – one that is coherent and impactful. Fortunately, the desire for such a system fits within the government’s industrial strategy. The objective? To connect trade via a unified system of analysis, making it easier to move goods across borders. Global trade will prove imperative in a post-Brexit world because this approach can facilitate access to new markets, and make for more efficient regulatory compliance. The goal is to bring together various elements of analytical science, driving product development and new infrastructure investment to support our future.

Part of that process will involve integrating data-rich technologies. Yet, that alone will not prove sufficient – translation is equally essential. Bridging the gap between a technology with potential and its point of use is really about the small details; it’s about trying to remove as much error and uncertainty as possible. At the same time, a skilled workforce with the ability to apply these technologies will be key, which highlights a central role for education in achieving our goals.

With support from BEIS (Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) we’ve been developing e-learning materials with some pilot companies. This experiment is in response to the demand – particularly in industry – for access to faster and less formal education tools. At the same time, however, we also want to support more formal education; we’re now offering studentships, postdoctoral positions and lectureships so that we can build a lasting legacy in this space and establish a concrete structure for career development. After all, we don’t want to fund posts that last three or five years and have the trained professional leave afterwards.

CAMS will work to connect the analytical infrastructure so that research and innovation can be directed towards four themes: point-of-use technologies, analysis of complex mixtures and separations, instrumentation, and data analytics. In short, we want to unite analytical science of all forms across the UK.

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  1. CAMS, “CAMS: Community for Analytical Measurement Sciences”, Available at: https://bit.ly/2YyihXs[AH1] . Accessed 31 July 2019.
  2. EPSRC, “EPSRC review of analytical sciences,” Available at: https://bit.ly/30Yr46C[AH2] . Accessed 31 July 2019.
About the Author
Julian Braybrook

Director of Measurement Science for the National Measurement Laboratory at LGC, UK, and Government Chemist.

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