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The Lure of Procrastination

Why do you procrastinate? Since most people are guilty of this failing at least some of the time, few readers are likely to say ‘what me, I never do!’ I believe the reasons are many and various but I must admit I hadn’t thought the remedy lay in taking on a mentoring role. But apparently there is some evidence to suggest that, by mentoring someone more junior, it is possible to rebuild confidence Continue reading

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Scientific archives workshop 2018

I attended the Second Workshop on Scientific Archives held at the Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, D.C. on the 13 & 14 August 2018.

The first Workshop on Scientific Archives was held at EMBL in 2016, and was organised entirely by Anne-Flore Laloe, the archivist at EMBL. It was (I think) the first time that archivists working in the scientific area had come together internationally Continue reading

Posted in Archives, C-CAST, Research data | Leave a comment

To Be or Not to Be a Role Model

When you grow up what do you want to be? That is a familiar enough question but I’ve never heard of anyone who expected the answer to be ‘a role model’. Yet there are those who have an expectation that women who become visible in the hard sciences should automatically step up to the mark to help the next generation. Don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of women supporting other women, wherever t Continue reading

Posted in academic housekeeping, Donna Strickland, Equality, inspiration, Women in science | Leave a comment

Tears for lives and an ideal lost


Mindlessly meandering down Dodge

Tears flowing like blood oozing from an arterial wound

Lies and lunatics, spiraling out of control

And all decency unmoored, with no captain at the moral helm


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Balancing science and the need to be politically active

Many fine articles have been written on the need for scientists to find the right “work-life balance.” Most of the time, the meaning of a work-life balance is equated with identifying a healthy balance between the need to dedicate significant time and energy in one’s scientific career together with spending time with one’s family. Finding the “right balance” has always been a difficult and m Continue reading

Posted in assassination, elections, murder, nationalism, racism, science, scientists, Trump, white supremacist, work-life balance | Leave a comment

Will I not be ‘Important’?

This is the troubled question Jeremy Baumberg asks rhetorically in his recent book The Secret Life of Science when he discusses the vexed question of what happens if he decides not to attend some conference, along with

‘Will I no longer be seen as a significant actor in the discipline?’ and

‘Will I not be party to conversations that build a mutual support club?’

Jeremy – a colleague of mine in Ca Continue reading

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Rock Lobster

This list is written on a crumpled Post-It note.

I like it. Crisp, business-like, no nonsense. Actually scrunched up to be discarded when it had served its purpose.

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Posted in chicken, children, list, pungent, shopping, Shopping lists | Leave a comment

In which we science the world

My son just can’t help it.

He’s not even doing it deliberately: he’s just acting naturally. Curiosity combined with razor-sharp eyesight is a killer combination for the accidental scientist. He sees things that I miss, with my own failing ocular capacity – especially things closer to the ground.

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Posted in Domestic bliss, Joshua, Scientific method, Scientific thinking, work-life balance | Leave a comment

Our Bullying Culture

Many of you will have already seen the OpEd I wrote in the Guardian last week on the subject of bullying and harassment in our universities. I was heartened by the response it received, in so far as it was in part intensely personal and, since it is always uncomfortable to lay oneself open, I was encouraged to receive many messages thanking me for writing it. But in other ways the responses were p Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Equality, intimidation, power, Science Culture | Comments Off on Our Bullying Culture

Why women in science cannot achieve equality when the president presides over chants of “LOCK HER UP!”

By nature and training, most biomedical research scientists are reductionists. For those non-scientists who are reading this, what I mean is that organisms and cells are so complex, with so many things going on simultaneously, that it is extremely difficult to attribute cause and effect to any singular factors. To do so, many scientists “break things down” to simple systems: we use the bare minimu Continue reading

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A year or more ago we were doing our weekly shop, and I found a shopping list in the trolley. Not ours—evidently somebody had been to the shop, got their stuff, and left their list behind (by design or accident is not recorded).

For some reason I was intrigued by the list, and kept it. Over the following months and regular shops I collected a few more such lists, for no other reason than it tickle Continue reading

Posted in lamb chops, list, shopping, Shopping lists, wine | Comments Off on Summertime

Resilience and the Nobel Prize

In case you’ve been asleep, this week has seen the number of scientific women winning Nobel prizes spike: two won this year. I don’t consider this simply as a moment of pure celebration for the cause of women in science, as I wrote elsewhere, pleasing though it may be. It means that the number of women winning in Physics has increased to the grand total of three, and in chemistry to five. Marie Cu Continue reading

Posted in Barbara McClintock, Cold Spring Harbour, Equality, Evelyn Fox Keller, maize, Research, transposition | Comments Off on Resilience and the Nobel Prize

Diversity? Who needs your diversity, we already know we are the smartest people in the room.

I am a member of an exclusive club. We, in our club, decide who the smartest people in the world are. The club, naturally, only contains white women who are below 5 foot 3 inches in height; 1.61 meters for you Europeans out there. I’d like you all to take a special note of me including the metric and the Imperial as this shows I am not biased!

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Posted in CERN, sexism, Strumia, Women in science | Comments Off on Diversity? Who needs your diversity, we already know we are the smartest people in the room.

Academic freedom and responsibility: why Plan S is not unethical

Since its announcement on 4th September the European Commission’s plan to make a radical shift towards open access (OA) has caused quite a stir. Backed by eleven* national funding agencies, the plan aims to make the research that they support free to read as soon as it is published. This is a major challenge to the status quo, since the funders are effectively placing subscription journals off lim Continue reading

Posted in Academic Freedom, Open Access, Plan S | Comments Off on Academic freedom and responsibility: why Plan S is not unethical

Sometimes science needs to take a backseat

Science is based on fundamental, objective truth. So sometimes, in support of science, it is necessary to step back and take a moral stand. Here is my letter to Nebraskan Senator Ben Sasse (republican, Judiciary Committee). Since I have no other way to reach out to Dr. Blasey Ford, I will tweet this link to her in full support of courageous testimony this week.

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Posted in harassment, Politics, sexual assault, truth, women's rights | Comments Off on Sometimes science needs to take a backseat