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Getting the Balance Right

Without much fanfare, the allocations across the different research councils have just been announced until the end of the current spending round.  What processes went into making decisions about the distribution between the different research councils is not obvious, or whose decisions these were. Maybe some reader can tell me whether the decision about the split between the research councils was Continue reading

Posted in Biomedical Bubble, Commons Science Select Committee, James Wilsdon, Research, Richard Jones, Science Funding, Strength in Places Fund, UKRI | Leave a comment

What makes for a Toxic Environment?

Toxic atmospheres have been in the news recently in the wake of an NHS report on a low-performing cardiac unit in London. All the articles I’ve read on this are short on detail of what actually happened. ‘Dark forces’ are mentioned, reminiscent of a Tolkien nove,l but they don’t actually give much insight into what – beyond rivalry between two teams – was actually going on. Toxic atmospheres are, Continue reading

Posted in competition, Equality, harassment, head of department, Science Culture, working environment | Leave a comment

A new scientific archive – launch and reflections

The event

I recently attended the launch of the EMBL archives, in its new purpose-built facility at the heart of the EMBL Heidelberg campus.  Most of the audience were from EMBL but there a few scientific archivists there too, admiring what has been achieved.

At the launch event we had a chance to look round the new facility and see some documents and photos from the archive. Then we heard talks b Continue reading

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Diversity in the HE Sector

When I was a harried mother, trying to maintain some sort of work-life balance while running a research group and keeping family fed and watered alongside my husband, I had no energy left for reading. Aga sagas, chick-lit and general lightweight airport reading was all I could summon the energy to tuck into.  Now my children have long since left home and ‘all’ I have to do is my day-job, my readin Continue reading

Posted in David Willetts, education, Further Educcation, higher education, Sam Gyimah | Leave a comment

Preprints in the news

I think Fiona Fox’s recent question about preprints and their impact on science news reporting deserves more consideration. She calls for more discussion of the issue and of possible solutions.

Preprints – good

I’ve invested quite a bit of time in supporting the idea that posting preprints should be a normal research practice in biomedical research. I admit that I was sceptical a Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, Preprints | Leave a comment

Are universities finally moving towards their #MeToo moment?

I have been away from my computer for over a week, but while I was away a piece I wrote previously for the Guardian HE Network has appeared regarding sexism in academic science. So, for my latest thoughts on this and what we should all be trying to do, follow this link.

Posted in Geoff Marcy, Guardian, sexism, Women in science | Leave a comment

Why open access makes sense

My colleagues in the Communications are looking pleased and exhausted today.  The Francis Crick Institute’s new website launched this morning. It’s had a complete overhaul of style, structure and content.  I’ve not been closely involved but I know enough to appreciate what a huge task this has been.

I too was pleased to see that our new website has launched, specifically as it ha Continue reading

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Judging on Potential (or Not)

I was trying to lay my hands on a quote I heard recently on the radio about creativity by Wolfgang von Goethe to kickstart this blogpost, and instead (amongst 100’s of others of his quotes) I came upon this:

‘Girls we love for what they are; young men for what they promise to be.’

Written around two centuries ago, this habit of acknowledging the potential of men to become something other (and impl Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Goethe, promotion, referees, Royal Society, Women in science | Leave a comment

DORA, the Leiden Manifesto & a university’s right to choose: a comment

The post below was written as a comment on Lizzie Gadd’s recent post explaining in some detail Loughborough University decision to base their approach to research assessment more on the Leiden Manifesto than DORA, the Declaration on Research Assessment. So you should read that first! (The comment is currently ‘in moderation’ because, like myself, Lizzie is on holiday. I suspect s Continue reading

Posted in Academic publishing | Comments Off on DORA, the Leiden Manifesto & a university’s right to choose: a comment

An unusual source of inspiration

In the introductory project management course that we took at the start of our curriculum revision process, we learned about the importance of defining the boundaries of a project, and not succumbing to the ever-present temptation of project inflation. Up until now, we have managed to be quite disciplined and have repeatedly restrained ourselves from drifting into modifying our Master’s prog Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on An unusual source of inspiration

A Lifetime of Music

It is inevitable that as one gets older the deaths of people who have meant a great deal to you happen more and more often. I have written in the past years about the death of two key mentors of mine as well as my own mother. This week I heard of another death of someone who had a profound impact on me half a century ago, my music master from my secondary school. Obviously he was a lot further rem Continue reading

Posted in Camden School for Girls, education, LSSO, Peter Morgan, viola | Comments Off on A Lifetime of Music

What does the Future Hold for Interdisciplinary Research Funding

UKRI has big shoes to fill. So far it has only just begun to signal its intentions regarding strategic directions: the ‘strategic prospectus’ it published in May was more a road map for developing its strategy than a strategy itself. However, these are important times for UK research and would be even without Brexit-related uncertainty. The Government has pledged to move towards a target of 2.4% o Continue reading

Posted in Interdisciplinary Science, refereeing, Science Funding, Strategic Priorities Fund, UKRI | Comments Off on What does the Future Hold for Interdisciplinary Research Funding


I often, if not always, take my laptop with me on holiday. Ostensibly it’s to write (for pleasure, definitely not work), but always—but always—that never ends up happening and we just use it for looking at all the photos we’ve taken.

This time, on a hill in Tuscany, it’s been different. I’ve managed, over the last two or three nights, to finally finish a project that has b Continue reading

Posted in A momentary lapse of reason, Holiday, Writing | Comments Off on Summertime

Ready-made citation distributions are a boost for responsible research assessment

Though a long-time critic of journal impact factors (JIFs), I was delighted when the latest batch was released by Clarivate last week.

It’s not the JIFs themselves that I was glad to see (still alas quoted to a ridiculous level of precision). Rather it was the fact that Clarivate is now also making available the journal citation distributions on which they are based. This is a huge boost to the pr Continue reading

Posted in Academic publishing | Comments Off on Ready-made citation distributions are a boost for responsible research assessment

Elegy for a building

The building is still there, holding its head high, but it’s fatally wounded. It is plain to see that it won’t be with us for much longer. NIMR, Mill Hill – with its iconic copper green roof visible across north London; its 1930s art deco features; its massive presence on The Ridgeway NW7 – that building will very soon be flattened.

The main NIMR building on 14 June 2018. From some Continue reading

Posted in History, Libraries and librarians | Comments Off on Elegy for a building