Latest posts

It’s All about Science Policy this Week: the Good and the Bad

There has been much activity on what could loosely be termed ‘Science Policy’ this week, including both the long-awaited/significantly delayed BIS Science and Innovation (S+I) Strategy document (entitled, optimistically ‘Our plan for growth’) and the outcome of the REF2014. I will leave discussion of the latter for another d Continue reading

Posted in Phd student training, Science Funding, Sir Mark Walport, Sir Paul Nurse, Strategy and Innovation | Leave a comment

Vanity project

I haven’t written a book. And this is it.

Cover photo

Well, I did write it of course. Continue reading

Posted in Scientific Life | Leave a comment

500 dead bumblebees – the chemical blitz of modern farming

Globe thistle

Earlier this year, Sheila Horne was walking at Hacton Parkway, a public park and conservation area in Havering, East London. April is normally a good time to see insects in their prime so she was very surprised to find many dead and dying bees near the path. She alerted local naturalist, Tony Gunton who identified the insects as bumblebee queens f Continue reading

Posted in buff-tailed bumblebee, buglife, bumblebees, common carder bee, conservation, epoxiconazole, flusilazole, fungicides, Guest posts, Hacton Parkway, imidacloprid, insecticides, neonicotinoids, pollinators, red-tailed bumblebee, thiamethoxam, tony gunton | Leave a comment

On moving on from The Lancet’s egregious error

In the midst of the terrible summer war between the Hamas movement in Gaza and Israel, The Lancet published a rabidly anti-Israel letter entitled “An Open Letter for the People of Gaza” that accused Israel of intentional genocide and Israeli doctors of essentially being part of this genocidal activity — and of course squarely plac Continue reading

Posted in "open letter to the people of Gaza, academic boycott, anti-semitism, Dr. Horton, genocide, Israel, Israelis, Manduca, Medicine, Palestinians, Research, rockets, science, terror, The Lancet, war | Leave a comment

Should I Be Discombobulated?

If I were Mary Beard I’m sure I could tell you about my particular current predicament with grace and self-deprecating humour. As it is my reaction is a severe case of impostor syndrome when perhaps I should be swanning around with delight. But yet to talk about such delight makes me feel in danger of exhibiting unsuitable over-confidence ver Continue reading

Posted in portraiture, role models, Science Culture, Tess Barnes, Women in science | Leave a comment

Creativity – mixing it up

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had cause to celebrate dramatic creativity in various forms, mixed and mingled. I’ve seen one film and two musicals; two with a biographical bent and one with a (fictional) scientific bent.

Two weeks back I went to my wonderful local cinema, The Phoenix in East Finchley, to see Hockney as part of an ev Continue reading

Posted in Film, Film and music, Music | Leave a comment

On Sponsorship and Kindness

Academia is intrinsically competitive, full of the need to win grants – which necessarily implies winning out over nameless others – gaining promotion and trying to beat others to a hot result at the expense of colleagues in the game. Does that mean the best science gets done? Almost certainly not. Being competitive can lead to a race to publicatio Continue reading

Posted in criticism, early career researcher, Equality, Science Culture, support, Women in science | Leave a comment

Prize-winning video

Well this is nice. The Celebrating Crystallography video made last year by the Royal Institution, which I narrated and helped to script-edit, has won the the EuroScience New Media award. Full details are available on the RI blog but it’s great to see a project come to such fruition.

The film came about as a result of an STFC grant on which Mi Continue reading

Posted in communication, science, Science & Media | Leave a comment

The rules

Rules can help us get by in life – everyone agreeing to drive on the left probably reduces the accident rate on roads quite a bit. But rules have a tendency to take over, a bit like Lord Acton’s dictum on power. Sometimes it seems as though The Rules have become an end in themselves, rather than a means of managing activities more effic Continue reading

Posted in Open Access, Research Councils, rules | Leave a comment

The Choices Not Taken

It is all too easy to think our lives are determined by the choices we make, and of course to a large extent that is true. But it is equally true that our lives are determined by what we actively decide not to do. We know that if we make a positive choice to pursue option A and it turns out badly then we probably made a bad decision. But this may b Continue reading

Posted in decision-making, opportunity cost, Science Culture, tasks | Leave a comment

Science in films: Decoding Annie Parker

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen a film in a theatre; the appeal of lying in bed in front of a high-resolution laptop screen when I’m too tired to think, write or even read is too great. Especially in the chill of Nebraska nights.

A few such nights ago I found a brief synopsis for a film entitled “Decoding Anni Continue reading

Posted in Annie Parker, BRCA1, breast cancer, Decoding Annie Parker, gene inheritance, geneticist, Helen Hunt, lab lit, Mary-Claire King, ovarian cancer, Research, science | Leave a comment

Why do I Always come away from Meetings Feeling a Fool?

That was the plaintive question I saw recently on Twitter (actually not from anyone I knew). There is of course the possibility the person is a fool, but my guess is that they were simply feeling that they weren’t doing as well as they imagined everyone else was in achieving their aims/contributing/being heard. Here are ten possible scenarios Continue reading

Posted in committee meetings, experience, preparation, Science Culture, speaking | Leave a comment

Copyright Infringement

This morning I received an email from a publisher inviting me to write a chapter for an ‘upcoming hardcover edited collection’ on a topic of research to which I have made a number of contributions over the years.

I politely declined because of the terms of the copyright transfer agreement that the publisher was good enough to provide up front. I ha Continue reading

Posted in Open Access, Scientific Life | Leave a comment

In which we despair: show and tell is alive and well

I have a theory about best-selling authors. Once they have finally made their breakthroughs, they tend to get lazy.

I have noticed that subsequent novels often become longer – just eyeball your collection of Harry Potters on the bookshelf and observe the chronological increase in spine widths, like a literary Fibonacci sequence. They also te Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Writing | Comments Off

Cuban heat in downtown Toronto

On a day before a major snowfall on our neighbours just over the border in Buffalo, and an infuriating mix of snow and wind in Toronto:  some photos of Cuban-Canadian singer Adonis Puentes, and legendary Cuban Tres maestro Pancho Amat. With a sizzling band, a lunchtime slice of Latin music is just what the doctor ordered. Now Buffalo’s diggin Continue reading

Posted in Adonis Puentes, First Canadian Place, Hobbies, Music, Pancho Amat, Photography, Toronto | Comments Off