Latest posts

Thin slicing a thin-skinned president

A wonderful elementary school friend who I haven’t seen for over 40 years recently drew my attention to a Canadian journalist and author named Malcolm Gladwell. I first read his book “Outliers,” a book that examined how the very most successful people in a variety of fields (from computer gurus like Bill Gates, to star hockey players, to airline pilots) managed to climb to the top of their respect Continue reading

Posted in Blink, Gladwell, Outliers, Politics, president, Research, science, thin slicing, Trump | Leave a comment

Thinking about Compassion

Compassion. That seems to be a word that is much in the air around me recently. I alluded to it in a recent post in the context of the need for self-control, but have discussed it more extensively in the past on this blog. Compassion is all too often absent in academia where competition, one-upmanship and self-importance can rule the roost. It was therefore heartening recently, when participating Continue reading

Posted in Equality, jerks, leadership, Science Culture, students | Leave a comment

Dusty Files and Old-fashioned Methods

It’s that time of year again when lecturers dust down their files, refresh their memories, and stride out to inspire the next generation of freshers keen to take down their every word. Except, it’s not like that any more. That was how it used to be; I still have the files to prove it. Indeed, the first lecture course I ever gave was essentially identical to the one I had myself received as an unde Continue reading

Posted in demonstrations, education, lecture notes, lectures, Powerpoint | Leave a comment

On harassment, the power differential and a modicum of hope

Anita Hill 1991 Testimony Senate

In 1991, I came down with a sudden stomach bug. As is common when I am too ill to think, all I could manage was planting myself in front of the television in an effort to keep myself mildly distracted from reality. Rarely do I have such precision in remembering my various illnesses, but I remember this day so particularly because I spent it watching Anita Hill testify about being sexually haras Continue reading

Posted in Abuse of Power, Anita Hill, Marchant, sexual harassment, Weinstein | Leave a comment

In which life slips past

Time is passing.

My baby son has somehow turned four years old, and a very significant birthday approaches in a month’s time for me as well.

Birthday Boy

The seasons are changing. Continue reading

Posted in academia, Domestic bliss, Gardening, Teaching, The profession of science, Work/life balance | Leave a comment

Tears and Smiles

There is always some trigger for blogposts, sometimes from the news, sometimes from one’s daily life. It is rare that my trigger is someone else’s blog but so it is today. This blog is written by a person who I happen to know was encouraged to start writing her own blog by reading mine, so it is probably an appropriate circle-closing to take her re Continue reading

Posted in bereavment, Churchill College, jenny Martin, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Why I don’t share Elsevier’s vision of the transition to open access

Screenshot: Working towards open access

Last week Elsevier’s VP for Policy and Communications, Gemma ybridersh, published a think-piece on the company’s vision of the transition to open access (OA). She makes some valid points but glosses over others that I would like to pick up on. Some of Elsevier’s vision is self-serving, but that should come as no surprise since the company has skin Continue reading

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What do employers want?

Our studies coordinator, Andrea, had a busy summer interviewing the people who hire our graduates; she talked to industry representatives in both management and research and development roles, as well as human resources personnel, from a wide range of different companies with different specialities. Now that we are all back from Summer travels, and Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Leave a comment

Nice Girls don’t Ask – but Should

In the unfolding furore about the published gender pay gap at the BBC, the situation was not improved by the comments of Philip Hampton who implied that women had ‘let it happen’ and ‘weren’t doing much about it’. Given that he is co-chair of a Government-commissioned review charged with increasing the number of women in senior roles in FTSE 350 fi Continue reading

Posted in Equality, market supplement, negotiation, pay gap, Philip Hampton, Women in science | Leave a comment

Corruption is contagious: just ask the former US Health and Human Services Secretary

This week, as Caribbean Islands including Puerto Rico are struggling from the horrific effects of Hurricane Maria, as running water and electricity have all but disappeared, and as the first rumors of possible cholera have emerged from the rubble, America’s rich spoiled brat took to the airwaves to criticize those “Sons of bitches” who dared to kne Continue reading

Posted in chartered jets, CRISPR/Cas9, Dan Diamond, Doudna, funding, grants, NIH, private jets, Rachana Pradhan, Research, science, Tom Price, Trump, waste, Zhang | Leave a comment

On taking a knee

When I was a teenager the 1980’s there was a spate of burning the Stars and Stripes in the US, as a protest to Ronald Reagan’s policies. Which particular policy is hard to remember as Ronnie had a whole heap of policies that weren’t exactly favorable to many people, especially to people that didn’t have a lot of money. Per Continue reading

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Equality, Chattels and Judgement

What was called spirit and wit in him, was cruelly repressed in me’. It is interesting to try to date this quote from a female character in a novel, because the sentiment (if not the phrasing) could still be written today. It is in fact from Mary Wollstonecraft’s unfinished novel Maria which has the sub-title The Wrongs of Women. I came across thi Continue reading

Posted in Cordelia Fine, Equality, Mary Wollstonecraft, student satisfaction surveys, The Female Lead, Women in science | Leave a comment

Does science need to be saved? A response to Sarewitz.

I wrote this piece a few months ago at the invitation of The New Atlantis. It was supposed to be one of a collection of responses to a polemical essay that they published last year on the parlous state of modern science by Dan Sarewitz. But my contact at The New Atlantis moved on a few weeks ago and I have heard nothing from his replacement. Maybe Continue reading

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Freshers’ Fears

Freshers are pouring in to their new universities, finding their way around strange cities, unfamiliar halls of residence, learning the vocabulary of their new alma mater, drinking endless amounts of coffee/tea/beer/wine/shots as they attempt to work out who will be their new best mates and who their rivals. Challenging, scary and exhilarating time Continue reading

Posted in Churchill College, education, Impostor syndrome, Music | Comments Off on Freshers’ Fears

Diversity skips African Americans in science

On a recent grant review panel, I was struck at the degree of diversity among the reviewers  at the table; with roughly twenty scientists in the group, I noted people who who hailed from at least nine different countries (not including the US) and four continents, spanning Europe, Asia and the globe. I found this to be a remarkable feat; almost hal Continue reading

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