10 July 2012

Profile: Paul Finglas, food web mastermind

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Paul Finglas coordinates a scientific information network on food, performing a daily balancing act to keep all the food ingredients on the radar

Managing research in Europe today requires a range of skills and abilities. Balancing aspects of scientific research, team management, logistics, dissemination and, sometimes, politics, is not an easy task. But one man who appears to be well suited to the challenge is Paul Finglas, a research leader at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, UK.

Paul manages the EuroFIR project that has developed food composition information services for academia, industry and policy-makers. Paul has over 150 publications in food science and nutrition and edits two academic journals: ‘Analytical, Nutritional and Clinical Methods Section of the Food Chemistry’ and ‘Trends in Food Science & Technology’.

His EU projects have informed a wide range of people around Europe. “My work is now used to support either national or EU surveys on nutrients consumed in the EU, monitor health assessments and support policies, by researchers looking at how diet influences health, and by industries that need information for recipe calculations” Paul tells youris.com.

Working on collaborative projects can be tricky, and coordinators need to ensure that all partners are happy. This seems to be another of Paul’s strengths, as the success of the EuroFIR network shows: “we’ve kept the network together and set up the non-profit association based in Belgium.” this has helped projects pertaining to scientific information on food to remain sustainable.

And it isn’t always plain sailing, as Paul explains: “working with researchers across Europe in EU projects is both challenging and rewarding and I have met and developed lovely friendships with a number of collaborators.” For example, he remembers the time he was trapped at Copenhagen airport in a blizzard, all hotels booked for the night and no transport. “I rang one of my EuroFIR contacts living close by and he offered to come in his 4x4 to pick me up and take me back to his house for the night!”

Weather related setbacks aside, Paul’s work is proceeding at an impressive pace with EuroFIR research being used to help the European Commission in health assessments and being a key partner in the PlantLIBRA project aiming to build a database of bioactive compounds used in food supplements. Despite the various demands on his time, he is carrying out an effective balancing act. “Up to now it’s feasible” he jokes, though he’s quite serious.

At least he knows exactly what to eat to keep healthy throughout such work!
 

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