By Professor Nicholas Harvey, Deputy Director; Professor of Rheumatology and Clinical Epidemiology, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre, University of Southampton

Professor Nick Harvey

Following a long and (at times excessively) hot summer, the new term has begun in earnest, bringing with it a plethora of activity. It has been wonderful to see an increasing return to face-to-face meetings; a particular delight was the opportunity for in-person participation in the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research Annual Scientific conference, in Austin, Texas. Having served as the clinical co-chair of the 2021 conference, but being unable to attend because of US travel restrictions, it was wonderful to finally be able to catch up with friends and colleagues from all over the world. As we get back to face-to-face interaction (of course viewing the coming winter with some concern and clearly mindful of major issues of sustainability more generally), there is no doubt that the in-person experience is so much richer and more satisfying than that offered by the virtual world in which we have existed over recent years.

The new term also brings progression of a major initiative in UK musculoskeletal science, with the consolidation of the strategic framework (to be published soon in Archives of Osteoporosis) for our UKRI MRC National Musculoskeletal Ageing Network. The network, led by the University of Southampton, brings together musculoskeletal researchers in key UKRI infrastructure and associated universities. It provides a wonderful platform on which to advance truly collaborative interdisciplinary bench-to-bedside-to-policy research whilst nurturing our brightest early and midcareer researchers, and critically, acting as a springboard towards establishment of a longer-term structure.  Look out for the two-monthly network seminar series (the next one will be held on Teams at 1130-1230 on Wednesday 2nd November, hosted by the MRC-Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research) and the forthcoming series of developmental sessions for early and midcareer researchers, together with a national event next year.

Finally, it was great to see the exciting news of the UK Biobank Repeat Imaging Study recently made public. The UKB Imaging Study, for which Cyrus Cooper and I have led the DXA (bone and body composition assessment) component, has already recruited over 50,000 (aiming for an eventual 100,000) of the original 500,000 participants, who have undergone a comprehensive imaging assessment (MRI brain, body and heart; DXA bone and body composition; carotid ultrasound; together with repeat of the baseline assessments). The new £30 million public-private partnership between UK Biobank, MRC, Calico Life Sciences and CZI will support repeat imaging of 60,000 individuals. As the DXA lead on the UK biobank Imaging Working group, I have been privileged to contribute to the construction of this internationally unique resource, which already offers a fantastically powerful platform on which to undertake a whole range of ground-breaking investigations. The addition of the repeat imaging opens up many new possibilities and, in ever difficult times, demonstrates the immense value of large-scale collaboration and unquestionably reasserts the internationally competitive quality of UK science.

The joy of international friends and face-to-face interaction

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