I work part-time for the Project and my role is to work with the participants and the public, to understand their concerns, and to earn and retain their trust in these new technologies and their implications. A particularly important aspect has been setting up the Participant Panel to ensure that we are involving the participants in what we do and how we roll out our service and that we learn from their wisdom and experience. What I do at Genomics England with wider policy dovetails with work I do elsewhere in science – for instance, my role on the board of UK Research & Innovation Council and of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
Life at Genomics England
I started with Genomics England when we were just five people working out of an old lab as, right from the start, public engagement was seen to be key to our success. I work with our splendid and much admired Communications team.
The best part of this job is talking to the participants who are just wonderful – thoughtful, practical, insightful, clever and hilarious to be with. I do many talks and debates, and always love the questions, especially from kids. And I like bringing together the many different strands of my life in order to help deliver the vision of genomics.
What brought me here
DNA was what drew me into science, and I reported on the Human Genome Project. But of all the extraordinary scientific advances I have been privileged to report on, the 100,000 Genomes Project is the most exciting because by the time we complete, it will have put us on the road to a completely new type of healthcare, enabled by genomics.
My background is as a science writer and broadcaster. I did Genetics for my degree. I loved the science but was hopeless in the lab and broke so much equipment that I was banned from doing practicals. I then ran a medical research charity, working with the Princess of Wales, who was its patron, for over a decade. But people and communicating science was always what I loved best, and somehow I fell into TV, becoming the presenter of the BBC’s iconic science show, Tomorrow’s World. I have also made hundreds of programmes for Radio 4 on health and science, including 4 series of Inside the Ethics Committee. I’ve always been a bit of a scribbler and have been a columnist for The Times, the Guardian and the News of the World; an agony aunt for Good Housekeeping; and have published several books. I still make films and do a huge amount of facilitation and hosting of major science events across the world. I have a thing for healthcare scientists and have worked with CSO Sue Hill for many years, promoting their many talents (the NHS’s 60,000 healthcare scientists include bioinformaticians and people working in genetics labs).
Despite travelling so much, I am a fanatical gardener, growing many varieties of flowers and vegetables in our garden in the Cotswolds. I also love cooking and make a lot of cakes and jam.