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Sold for a Mess of Potage

A couple of weeks back I undertook another trip to Europe. A trip that got extended by nearly a day due to snow which disrupted my travel plans, thereby making it impossible for me to get back to the UK as planned.  The trip was another opportunity to ponder what we are losing as we head off into #Brexitshambles. Once again I was there in my capacity as a Scientific Council member of the ERC and t Continue reading

Posted in EMBL, ERC, Frankfurt, Janet Thornton, Research, Science Culture, Science Funding | Leave a comment

On ‘lower impact’ publishing – it’s better than you might think.

Over the course of the last two or so years, I have had a number of personal issues to deal with. Family illnesses, the sudden death of my older brother and some other things (I will spare you the gory details). Fortunately for me, my scientific research kept going. Why? Because I had an absolutely fantastic research group who worked hard and stayed in touch with me during my absences. During Continue reading

Posted in impact factor, scientific publishing | Leave a comment

In which age is no impediment to scientific discourse

Joshua has had quite a few vaccinations in his four-and-a-half years – the usual routine inoculations for standard childhood illnesses and a couple (chicken pox and meningitis B) that are not on the NHS menu. The last time I took him out of nursery, this time for the flu vaccine, he asked me why we were going to the doctor, and I decided to give it to him in simple terms.

With Joshua these Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Joshua, students, Teaching | Leave a comment

What Can I Do? Press for Progress….

What follows is a lightly edited version of the address I gave at the joint Churchill/Murray Edwards Colleges ‘Humanist Happenings’ last Sunday, in advance of International Women’s Day today.

Today is International Women’s Day, with its theme of Press for Progress. Every year this day gains a little more momentum; more people are aware of it, more occasions swell the message. In Continue reading

Posted in Amplification, Bystander, Equality, International Women's Day, Women in science, Women's Lib | Leave a comment

Nothing’s Wasted

No doubt the majority of my readers are far more familiar with TEDx talks than I am, and have watched many more than I have. They are a notion that has floated past me occasionally. I have been asked to do one a few times, usually by student associations and usually with very little warning.  Hence, although I have explored the format from time to time on YouTube and watched  a few of the much tal Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, media, memory, TEDx, Whitehall | Leave a comment

Another school shooting–will anything change?

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep one’s nose to the grindstone and carry on in America of 2018 as though everything is okay. That’s because it isn’t.

I have to be optimistic—and despite Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman’s wariness of optimists in his great book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” I remain optimistic on several accounts. Just as an aside, Kahneman noted in his book that he never me Continue reading

Posted in assault rifle, Daniel Kahneman, empathy, Florida, gun control, guns, military, narcissist, optimist, president, school shootings | Leave a comment

Even scientists have birthdays

Scientist bday

What do you get for a scientist who has everything? Except, perhaps, all the grants and papers he wants….

Posted in Birthdays, grants, humor, manuscripts, peer review, Research, reviews, science, scientists | Leave a comment

In which I get the blues (a tale of miracle surgery)

I have a good excuse for not writing for a while: eye surgery in the new year, which made reading or writing of any kind difficult. Only now am I starting to get back to my old literary self.

I have worn glasses since about age six. My myopia had grown progressively worse over the decades until I settled at about -11 diopter with an astigmatism of about 3.5. Continue reading

Posted in The ageing process | Leave a comment

The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room, is not only an experience I have frequently endured, but is also the title of a 2015 book by Eileen Pollack (subtitled Why Science is Still a Boy’s Club). I’m not sure why this particular book hadn’t crossed my path until recently, given it is about her experiences as an erstwhile female physicist during her education, but it hadn’t. She and I are near contemporaries bu Continue reading

Posted in coeducation, Eileen Pollack, physics, Women in science, Yale | Leave a comment

Opening peer review for inspection and improvement

ASAPbio Peer Review Meeting

For me the most memorable event at last week’s ASAPbio-HHMI-Wellcome meeting on Peer Review, which took place at HHMI’s beautifully appointed headquarters on the outskirts of Washington DC, was losing a $100 bet to Mike Eisen. Who would have guessed he’d know more than I did about the intergalactic space lord and UK parliamentary candidate, Lord Buckethead? Not me, it turned out.

Mike was graciou Continue reading

Posted in Academic publishing, asapbio, hhmi, peer review, science, Wellcome Trust | Comments Off on Opening peer review for inspection and improvement

What do We Lose if We Lose Access to the ERC?

This week I was in Brussels in my capacity as a Scientific Council Member of the European Research Council. One of the roles we are all expected to fulfil from time to time is as observer of the various panels that make decisions on grants. There are 25 panels across three domains (Physical and Engineering Sciences, Life Sciences and Social Sciences and Humanities, always referred to as PE, LS and Continue reading

Posted in Brexit, Brussels, Research Councils, Science Funding, Unconscious bias | Comments Off on What do We Lose if We Lose Access to the ERC?

One Hundred Years

Today we celebrate the Suffragettes’ victory 100 years ago: votes for (some) women. A timely moment to reflect on the state of play in terms of equality. More than seven years ago I wrote the post below about the Equal Pay Act and how the gender pay gap operates in universities. Rereading it last week – in the wake of an article by Gaby Hinsliff – it still rings as true  to me today as then. Continue reading

Posted in Dagenham, equal pay, Equality, Mary Beard, Suffragettes | Comments Off on One Hundred Years

One Year In

It’s hard to believe that it is now more-or-less a year since our kick-off workshop to launch our curriculum revision project. Right on schedule, we celebrated the occasion with our planned second all-lecturer workshop, this time with the goal of converging the curriculum outline.

In order to have a concrete starting point for discussions, the project team prepared a draft curriculum proposa Continue reading

Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on One Year In

When Should You Say Yes?

I am prompted to ask this question by a whole slew of different events and stories this past week. The question is in part a general one about what is good for careers, and in part it reflects gender issues – as they impact on both men and women. Let me start with the general careers’ question: how do you decide when something you have been asked to do is a wise thing to accept? There are a wide r Continue reading

Posted in committee work, Impostor syndrome, manel, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on When Should You Say Yes?

Now I understand Proust better (but feel less positive about Athena Swan)

You know the story about Marcel Proust and the madeleine – how the memories came flooding back when he nibbled at one with a cup of tea. I always thought this was slightly ridiculous, but perhaps ageing means I now have more memories to recapture.  Suddenly it all made much more sense. And certainly, walking down the back streets of London from Kings Cross to UCL last week, I felt assailed by memo Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Dillon's, UCL, Women in science | Comments Off on Now I understand Proust better (but feel less positive about Athena Swan)