Latest posts

On the Need for Shiny New Facilities

I’m off to open a new block at Brighton and Hove Sixth Form College tomorrow. A shiny new building to provide fresh classrooms and additional study space, something many schools would dearly love to have. A decent working environment is undoubtedly contributory to children finding it easier to learn – rather like Virginia Woolf’s Continue reading

Posted in careers, education, practical work, school facilities | Leave a comment

Leadership (Churchillian style) and Policy

Churchill is often seen as the supreme leader, a man whose very voice inspired a nation and who held the country’s nerve during the Battle of Britain. Less often discussed is his leadership and behaviour at other times, although increasingly there are biographies that are far from hagiographic, one notable example being by a Churchill College Continue reading

Posted in Churchill College, CSaP, de Gaulle, policy-makers, Science policy | Leave a comment

Paying for peer review? No thanks, I’m outta here…

I spent Friday traveling west of Omaha to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, in of course, Kearney, Nebraska–about 3 hours west of Omaha. The University of Nebraska has 4 major campuses: 1) The University of Nebraska Medical Center (where I work, here in Omaha), 2) The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO, mostly undergraduate and also in Continue reading

Posted in compensation, editor, editorial board, editors, journals, nature, peer review, publishing, Research, review, rubriq, science, scientific reports | Leave a comment

Open access: a national licence is not the answer

Open Access: Is a national licence the answer?” is a proposal by David Price and Sarah Chaytor of University College London for a mechanism to provide full access to everyone within the UK to all published research. It was published on 31 March 2015 by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) whose director, Nick Hillman, wrote the foreword. 

Continue reading

Posted in national licence, Open Access | Leave a comment

Borrowing an Objective

Maybe it’s because I’m relaxed as it’s the Easter break, but when I received an email with ‘Borrowing an Objective‘ as its subject this week, my mind went into overdrive. I assumed someone was short of a goal, an aspiration or a target hypothesis for their grant – or even for their departmental mission statement. Much Continue reading

Posted in Equality, HE, Science Culture, targets, Universities | Leave a comment

In which the forest emerges

The clocks have gone forward, the crocuses wither, the tulips unfurl. The students have dispersed for Easter, full of dread about the immunology exam that will pounce on their return.


Budding life forms

I put one grant application to bed and work on two others. Continue reading

Posted in careers, Gardening, Scientific thinking, staring into the abyss, students, Teaching, The profession of science | Leave a comment

In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye

It’s the last trumpet.

It’s been an intense few months up on the Ridgeway; preparations for our big change have gathered pace. At first things went slowly – infuriatingly slowly –  but as the years crept on so we felt the pressure develop. It’s like the feeling of being in a crowd of people surging forward, slowly acce Continue reading

Posted in Froth | Leave a comment

Is there a Point in Travel?

As my last post makes clear, I have been busy travelling recently. My trip encompassed visits to both New York and Boston, cities which in years past I have visited quite frequently. Boston is delightfully non-American: its streets are not on a grid but resemble a British city much more than any other US city I have ever visited. It has had a hard Continue reading

Posted in airmiles, Boston, conferences, Hilda Geiringer, Science Culture, Women in science | Leave a comment

Open letter to the Publishers Association: please amend your open access decision tree

Dear Publishers Association

I ask that you amend the open access decision tree you created for incorporation into the guidance notes accompanying the Open Access (OA) policy announced by Research Councils UK (RCUK) in 2013. It may seem odd to ask for a correction so late in the day but my reasons for doing so are two-fold.

First, the Publishers Ass Continue reading

Posted in Open Access, Publishers' Association, RCUK | Leave a comment

In which Charles Fernyhough comes to Fiction Lab

One of the great things about being the LabLit Guru™ is that I am constantly receiving interesting books to look over.

Stack o' Books
A stack of lab lit, yesterday – plus an intriguing hanger-on there at the bottom

One of the not-so-great things is that (A) I am always desperately behind on my reading, and (B) it doesn’t leave me time to read a Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Writing | Leave a comment

Reminiscing On my Travels

I am often asked, what do College Masters do? Some people seem to think it is similar to being Warden of a Hall of Residence (i.e. sorting out broken light bulbs or disputes between neighbouring students), but it isn’t like that at all. As one of my fellow female Masters told me, it is a case of ‘setting a tone’, but even that sou Continue reading

Posted in alumni, Boston, Churchill College, Communicating Science, New York, Women in science | Leave a comment

In which life imitates science – number 264

A scientist is never off-duty, even in a fabulous Michelin-starred restaurant on Charlotte Street.

Spindle organization was never this tasty

Spindle organization was never this tasty

I think pretty much anyone with a cell biology background would have seen what I saw in this rhubarb confection:

Posted in Scientific thinking, Silliness | Leave a comment

Words and Images

As my last post said, I have been sitting on a lot of committees recently and consequently reading a lot of references. I am pleased to observe that it has been the men round the table who have been complaining about the gendered tone of some of these letters, picking up both when a referee envisages a job in a very masculine way and so complains i Continue reading

Posted in Alice Lee, Equality, GillianGehring, Hertha Ayrton, letters of reference, Women in science | Comments Off

In which the postdoc sell-by date continues to shrivel: The MRC comes to its senses

How do you judge the worth of a researcher? In particular, can you tell how excellent she is by how quickly she gets from point A to point B in her career?

Old postdocs may not be as stale as they look

Old postdocs may not be as stale as they look

The funding bodies used to think speed was of the essence. Continue reading

Posted in careers, Science Funding, staring into the abyss, The profession of science, Women in science | Comments Off

10 Things to Make You a Better Committee Member

I seem to have been sitting through a lot of committee meetings recently, of diverse kinds. Every committee meeting has its own dynamic – a grant-awarding meeting is very different in form from that of some sort of a departmental strategy group; a programme committee for a conference will differ from a student-liaison body. Nevertheless there Continue reading

Posted in committee work, paperwork, preparation, Science Culture | Comments Off