Research 2030 podcast: Bye, bye, blue sky? Part 1: A conversation with Lee Cronin

Is basic research ‘living on borrowed time?’ Elsevier’s Dr. Lesley Thompson talks with University of Glasgow Prof. Lee Cronin on the Research 2030 Podcast, Episode 4

Research 2030 podcast episode 4

Some argue that blue sky, also known as basic research, is critical – that the serendipitous results it fuels provide the perfect shoulders for giants to stand upon. But, with so much at stake globally right now, from climate change to population growth, is blue sky in danger of looking a little indulgent? And with public research funding under pressure and universities facing calls to focus on practical skills, is it living on borrowed time? Dr. Lesley Thompson, Elsevier’s VP of Academic and Strategic Alliances, explores these questions on our Research 2030 podcast series. In this episode, she is joined by Leroy “Lee” Cronin, Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow.

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Guest: Lee (Leroy) Cronin

Prof. Leroy “Lee” Cronin, FRSEProf. Leroy “Lee” Cronin, FRSE was born in the UK in 1973. He was appointed Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow in 2013 after being a professor (2009 and 2006) and reader in Glasgow since 2002. Between 2000-02, he was a lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Previously, he was Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow at the University of Bielefeld and Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. In 1997, he received his PhD in Bio-Inorganic Chemistry from the University of York.

Prizes include the 2019 Japan Society of Coordination Chemistry International Prize, 2018 ACS Inorganic Lectureship, 2018 RSC Interdisciplinary Prize, 2015 RSC Tilden Prize, 2013 BP/RSE Hutton Prize, 2012 RSC Corday-Morgan Prize, and Election to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2009.

Prof. Cronin’s research has four main aims:

  1. The construction of an artificial life form, working out how inorganic chemistry transitioned to biology, searching for new life forms
  2. The digitization of chemistry
  3. The use of artificial intelligence in chemistry, including the construction of “wet” chemical computers
  4. The exploration of complexity and information in chemistry

He runs a team of around 60 people funded by grants from the UK EPSRC, US DARPA, Templeton, Google, BAe and JM and is developing both open-source  and commercial chemputers. See

Host: Dr. Lesley Thompson

Lesley Thompson, PhDDr. Lesley Thompson joined Elsevier in 2016 as Director Academic & Government Strategic Alliance in the UK. Previously, she worked for 26 years at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the largest of the UK’s seven research councils.

At Elsevier, Lesley plays a leading role in advancing Elsevier’s initiatives to help universities, funding bodies and governments achieve their strategic objectives. She was a member of the Royal Society Diversity group, she chairs the Oxfordshire Innovation Board and is a member of Keele University Council. In January 2016, was awarded an MBE for services to research. Lesley has a PhD in Biology from the University of Essex and is married with children.

Resources: Future-proofing research

In the Research Futures report, Elsevier and Ipsos MORI, one of the world’s largest research agencies, joined forces to understand how trends – from advances in technology and funding pressures to political uncertainty and population shifts – might be fueling the changes we’ll see in the coming decade.

The resulting large-scale future-scoping and scenario-planning study raised many questions and sparked interesting conversations, some of which we are capturing in this podcast.

Download the report and supporting material

Research Futures report coverThe report Research Futures: drivers and scenarios for the next decade is freely available.

Elements of the underlying study data are also freely available:

Written by

Giacomo Mancini, PhD

Written by

Giacomo Mancini, PhD

Dr. Giacomo Mancini is a Business Development Manager at Elsevier and lead host of Elsevier’s Research 2030 Podcast Series. He received his PhD in Developmental and Evolutionary Biology from New York University and has a vast amount of research experience, having held positions as a Scientist and Research Associate at Johnson & Johnson and Mount Sinai Innovative Partners. While he’s passionate about analytics and bibliometrics, you may also find him reading the sports section of or tracking MLB player statistics on Go Mets!
Written by

Susannah Beatty-Tucker

Written by

Susannah Beatty-Tucker

Susannah Beatty-Tucker is Manager of Content Marketing Strategy & Development at Elsevier and producer of Elsevier's Research 2030 podcast series. She is based in San Diego, California.

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