Is there a mathematical skills shortage amongst bioscience graduates?

Take part in the new survey at

This survey aims to gather opinions and thoughts of UK academic bioscience researchers on the question “is there a mathematical skills shortage amongst bioscience graduates”? This question divides into two main aspects:

(1) to what extent are bioscience graduates equipped with the basic toolkit of mathematical and statistical techniques needed for the least quantitative of the biological sciences?

(2) to what extent do bioscience graduates have sufficient maths to understand and participate in research in systems biology and computational biology working in interdisciplinary teams and communicating effectively with engineers, physicists and mathematicians?

Following on from these questions: if there is a lack of supply of mathematically-skilled bioscientists what training provision exists to correct this?


The driving force for this survey has been an increasing number of reports and remarks regarding problems in the mathematical skills of bioscience graduates. In the current BBSRC Strategic Plan[1] “BBSRC will …. encourage interdisciplinary research and training…  as bioscience becomes increasingly quantitative there is also an urgent need to raise the mathematical and computational skills of biologists at all levels. “ The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry reported[2] in 2008 that lack of mathematical skill was an issue both for basic bioscientists working in predominantly “wet” lab environments as well as lack of bioscientists with sufficient mathematical aptitude and expertise to work well with interdisciplinary groups using systems biology approaches.

This survey:

The results of the survey will be compiled into a report to be prepared for the UK Centre for Bioscience and made available on its website.  There are four short sections and many of the questions are optional. There are spaces for free text responses so that you can qualify or explain your answers. The survey may be completed anonymously though it would be helpful to know your institution to assess the range of types of institution who have responded. It should take about 10 minutes to complete.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and participation.

[2] Skills Needs for Biomedical Research: Creating the Pools of Talent to Win the Innovation, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, accessed 8-3-2011.


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