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Nature’s new open access option – a few first thoughts

A news article published online in Nature this morning discusses the announcement of new open access options in the Nature family of journals. Nature-News-OA-24Nov The details are in the article, but the basic story (written by Holly Else) is that authors wanting to make their work OA can pay an APC of €9,500 or choose a ‘guided’ route, which is about 50% cheaper but splits the price between reviewing and Continue reading
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Teaching online: how to use an iPad as a whiteboard

Last week I gave my first online tutorials where I needed to scribble on a whiteboard and to show the students their exam scripts from last term, which has been posted to my home by the university. To solve both of these problems, I spent a bit of time figuring out how to share my iPad and iPhone screens within Microsoft Teams running on my Apple MacBook. For anyone wanting to do the same, I thoug Continue reading

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This picture, which I have shamelessly stolen liberated stolen liberated from the Twitter account of the Linnean Society of London, is of Charles Darwin’s study at Down House, reminds me of an anecdote that Twitter is too small to contain, so I shall recount it here.

Darwin’s Study. Some Considerable Time Ago.

Many years ago when the world was young, and definitely BC (Before Children) Continue reading

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Becoming a Leader

This week I took part in a panel aimed at young adults who see themselves as future leaders. An interesting, if slightly disquieting experience. My fellow panellists were two young men in their twenties, who had both already done amazing things setting up charities and networks to support the disadvantaged. Inevitably I felt very grey and old. I was tremendously impressed by their energy, their se Continue reading

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I’ve been writing books since my twenties. In fact, I have been working on one book or another almost constantly since I finished my first — which was my doctorate thesis, resting unread in a dusty vault in Cambridge.

Notwithstanding inasmuch as which the draft of my forthcoming tome A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth is now with my editor, who will get back to me when the time co Continue reading

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Heirlooms, and Other Stuff

I’ve long been fascinated by Antiques Roadshow, a long-running Televisual Emission in which members of the public bring assorted objets, often of no conceivable use whatsoever except for the accumulation of surplus value, to be assessed and valued by experts. So what we have here (one might say) is a fine example of an early nineteenth-century Shropshire grummet-tinker’s scrode. Now, t Continue reading

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The Doings Round My Parts

What have I been up to these past six years? Well, some of it can be found in the archived posts below. For those disinclined to delve, I shall attempt a succinct summary. But how does one even start to summarise six eventful years? A moment-my-moment summary would be very dull, and with a temporal mapping of 1:1 would take six years to write, after which six more years would have elapsed. Extrem Continue reading

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This Is Not A Test. Oh, All Right Then, It Is.

Having decided that six years is far too long to spend in the wilderness, I have returned to these shores, and, notwithstanding inasmuch as which, I’m back. Thanks very much to Richard for his warm welcome (with Jenny cheering in the background, from somewhere in the veg patch) and for reanimating the technology so it all works. At my age, you see, one is never sure until one tries.

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Slight return

I wrote this somewhere else, and it got sufficiently long that I thought it might as well go here, since the blog is still here. Prompted by Nov 11th, of course, but by other things too.
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Keeping On Keeping On

In the UK, as in many other countries, we have entered another lockdown, mysteriously assigned in some quarters a decimal point, as in lockdown 2.0. It’s a lockdown with a difference, in that the rules are not the same as last time around (and therefore tending to be confusing), and logic in the rules is not always present to my scientist’s eye.  Life in Cambridge is hugely unlike the first lockdo Continue reading

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Mentors and Role Models

Five years ago I received a package in the post, with a covering letter from someone I’d never met. Dan Davis, Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester and apparently a fan of this blog, had sent me a copy of his book, The Compatibility Gene, ‘in case it would be of interest’. A former physicist himself, he had written – as I discovered when I read it a while later – a fascinating b Continue reading

Posted in careers, Dan Davis, gender champion, Julia Higgins, Peter Medawar, Sam Edwards, Women in science | Leave a comment

Bookish Thoughts

Here at the Maison Des Girrafes we only ever had one rule for the kids as they were growing up. Except that it wasn’t even a rule. What it was, was this:

No Reasonable Request for Books Will Ever Be Denied

I am happy to report that the Offspring, who have flown the nest, are highly literate individuals currently at college, and are as well-balanced and happy as you’d expect with m Continue reading

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A not (yet) successful experiment in walking office hours.

Faced with the thought of trying to establish interaction with 50 masked students spread to the far-flung corners of an enormous lecture room from behind a perspex screen with my glasses steaming up, I decided from the start of this semester to teach my Solid State Physics and Chemistry of Materials class on zoom.

Not liking, however, the thought of never meeting my students in person, I decided t Continue reading

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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

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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
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