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In which we face the rain

One of our white wine 2018 vintages

How quickly strangeness becomes familiarity.

As autumn hunkers down, and the COVID infection rates continue to rise (nearly 13,000 cases reported yesterday in the UK), I see things around me that I never could have imagined before 2020. A trip to the mall yesterday revealed a docile crowd with universal face coverage – gone are those defiant mavericks of a few Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Gardening, Research, Scientific thinking, The profession of science, work-life balance | Leave a comment

Getting Behind Diversity Statistics

Earlier this year UKRI published ‘harmonised’ diversity data across all its councils. These did not make for comfortable reading, with attention being particularly focussed on two findings:

  • Female and ethnic minority awardees tend to apply for and win smaller awards: median award value for females ca 15% less than for males (£336,000 vs £395,000;
  • Median award value for ethnic minority awardees is Continue reading
Posted in EPSRC, Equality, grant funding, Science Funding, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Leave a comment

In defence of the bureaucracy of equality, diversity and inclusion

The UK government’s new policy to reduce bureaucracy in research institutions aims at an easy target. But the bonfire of administration lit by the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, risks burning down the foundations of much-needed efforts to value the many different people on which the future health of UK R&D depends

200921-Cummings-at-No10

Should an interest in bureaucracy be a protected characteris Continue reading

Posted in Equality Diversity & Inclusion, Science & Politics, Scientific Life | Leave a comment

Of a Retiring Nature

The end of this month marks my retirement from my professorial position at Cambridge, something that I still find rather surprising. My career on that front has just faded out, yet another victim of the pandemic; the conference planned for the week just past to celebrate my career, bit the dust a long time ago. There is absolutely no rite of passage, other than (mistakenly) being sent an ‘exit que Continue reading

Posted in Churchill College, retirement, Science Culture, support, Women in science | Leave a comment

Research Culture, Fairness and Transparency

A week after the Science and University Ministers announced with respect to chartermarks such as Athena Swan

“We have therefore asked the OfS, UKRI and NIHR to ensure that they place no weight upon the presence or absence of such markers or scheme memberships in any of their regulatory or funding activities”

as I discussed in my last blogpost, there seems uncertainty what that means in pract Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, BAME, Equality, grant-giving panels, Ottoline Leyser, Science Culture, UKRI | Leave a comment

We’ve Come a Long Way But…..

When Rita Colwell was born in 1934, neither Oxford nor Cambridge Universities had yet appointed a female professor in any discipline; Dorothy Garrod, the first woman to hold such a chair (the Disney Chair of Archaeology at Cambridge), was not appointed until 1939. Colwell herself went on to a distinguished career in environmental microbiology – she was particularly important in unravelling part of Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Equality, harassment, Ottoline Leyser, Rita Colwell, Women in science | Comments Off on We’ve Come a Long Way But…..

Our Beirut Brexit

At 6:18 on the afternoon of Tuesday 4th August a huge store of ammonium nitrate exploded at the port of Beirut. The blast, one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history, killed nearly 200 people, injured thousands more, and left over a quarter of a million homeless. In the immediate vicinity, the blast wave overturned cars and tore the cladding from buildings; windows were shattered i Continue reading

Posted in communication, international, Science & Politics | Comments Off on Our Beirut Brexit

Feeling the Fear

Readers of the Guardian may, over the years, have had reason to dip into Oliver Burkeman’s columns. As he hangs up his metaphorical boots, he summarised what he had personally learned from the exercise of writing these ‘self-help’ articles. In this last article he advises, for instance, something that will resonate with many an academic, harried even over the summer vacation by the endless to-do l Continue reading

Posted in growth, Impostor syndrome, Oliver Burkeman, Science Culture, self-confidence | Comments Off on Feeling the Fear

Investing in Education and the Levelling Up Agenda

Early years provision has suffered during austerity, and is continuing to see cutbacks, as Polly Toynbee pointed out last week. Yet children who fall behind at the outset of their education will find it very difficult to catch up later. If letters and reading are a mystery at 5 or 6, let alone at 7, how hard it will be to get decent grades at GCSE without a huge amount of support and 1:1 teaching Continue reading

Posted in Augar Review, education, Further Education, social mobility | Comments Off on Investing in Education and the Levelling Up Agenda

In which Frank leaves the building

Martin

Martin onstage at “Trop-a-Delic”

Last night I lost a friend.

I couldn’t think of a more graceful way to start this post, as I am still a little bit in shock. But last night, I lost a friend.

Continue reading
Posted in Music, Obituaries, The ageing process | Comments Off on In which Frank leaves the building

In our elements

LakeDistrict - 12

I have been coming to the Lake District on and off for much of my life. It is my favourite corner of England. I first came in 1981 when I was seventeen, as one of half a dozen venture scouts from Ballymena on a summer youth hosteling trip.

LakeDistrict - 3

Continue reading
Posted in Scientific Life | Comments Off on In our elements

Pandemic Staycationing

As far as I’m concerned, this is not a year for travelling for a holiday. Indeed, given some of the recent events, there hasn’t even been time to take any sort of extended break. However, we have been taking days off to get some healthy exercise, on bike or foot. Staycationing is, I know, all the rage, so I’m just on trend (for once). And very pleasant it is to get out and about, at least when the Continue reading

Posted in Cambridge life, dreams, jackdaws, novels, ornithology | Comments Off on Pandemic Staycationing

Pandemic Staycationing

As far as I’m concerned, this is not a year for travelling for a holiday. Indeed, given some of the recent events, there hasn’t even been time to take any sort of extended break. However, we have been taking days off to get some healthy exercise, on bike or foot. Staycationing is, I know, all the rage, so I’m just on trend (for once). And very pleasant it is to get out and about, at least when the Continue reading

Posted in Cambridge life, dreams, jackdaws, novels, ornithology | Comments Off on Pandemic Staycationing

Pandemic Staycationing

As far as I’m concerned, this is not a year for travelling for a holiday. Indeed, given some of the recent events, there hasn’t even been time to take any sort of extended break. However, we have been taking days off to get some healthy exercise, on bike or foot. Staycationing is, I know, all the rage, so I’m just on trend (for once). And very pleasant it is to get out and about, at least when the Continue reading

Posted in Cambridge life, dreams, jackdaws, novels, ornithology | Comments Off on Pandemic Staycationing

In which business is not quite as usual: the post-first-wave lab resumes

Suspended animation: the lab awaits the return of its researchers

Business as usual is the sort of mentality that’s probably only certain in retrospect. At the moment, the jury is still very much out.

My lab reopened its doors a few weeks ago. This is, of course, a wonderful thing. Continue reading

Posted in academia, careers, Domestic bliss, Epidemics, Gardening, Joshua, staring into the abyss, The profession of science, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which business is not quite as usual: the post-first-wave lab resumes