Latest posts

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 | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Equality, president, Research, science, Trump, Women in science | Leave a comment


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 | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

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

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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 | Leave a comment

What Does Creativity Mean to You?

When I was at school, careers’ advice – at least at my girls’ grammar school – was essentially non-existent. Perhaps boys’ schools did better; after all, for my generation of women, ‘careers’ weren’t a matter for serious concern. I certainly believed, as I expect many of my peers did, that going to university would lead to a few years of random work followed by marriage and housewifery with a chil Continue reading

Posted in Career advice, education, Lord Aberdare, Science Culture, William Blake | Leave a comment

Library day in the life 2018

This post is an account of what I did at work each day from Monday 17 September 2018 through to Friday 21 September 2018. The idea is to give an impression of the range of tasks I engage in. I’ve done it four times previously, starting in 2011. I explain more about ‘Library day in the life’ in my Library day in the life 2016 post.

Monday 17 Sep
I woke up feeling tired from my run Continue reading

Posted in Libraries and librarians, Library day in the life | Leave a comment

When truth meets “feelings”


And behind the curtain is…?!!!

As human beings, we are taught (perhaps except in the era of Trump) about the importance of respecting others, and being sensitive to their views and feelings. Overall, this is a GOOD thing, and while money may make the world-go-round,  empathy certainly makes the world a better place. But respecting sensitivities, as important as it is, should not usurp the t Continue reading

Posted in Darwin, education, evolution, religion, Research, science, sensitivities, truth | Comments Off on When truth meets “feelings”

The Buzz of the New

The start of the academic year brings its own opportunity for new year’s resolutions. All the usual: drink less coffee, snack less between meals, waste less time reading peripherally-relevant websites and answer all emails within 24 hours. Just like calendar New Year’s Resolutions they are unlikely to be adhered to. But this time of year – and yes I know Cambridge terms start later than most so ma Continue reading

Posted in academic year, education, sleep, Trinity Street | Comments Off on The Buzz of the New

In which I question an assumption: do fiction readers really dislike scientific detail?

My regular readers will know all about Fiction Lab, the world’s first book group devoted to discussing lab lit fiction. We’ve been meeting once a month for just over a decade at London’s Royal Institution to talk about novels with scientists as central characters. We try to get authors to join in whenever we can – and next month it’s my turn.

This is not my first rod Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Scientific thinking, Writing | Comments Off on In which I question an assumption: do fiction readers really dislike scientific detail?