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Do You Want to be Described as Hard Working?

I visited Oxford this week to talk to the Women in Physics group, mainly made up of students and postdocs (not all of whom were women). Tea and excellent scones were provided to stimulate good discussion. I was duly grilled as the voice of experience and asked to provide advice about career progression and setbacks. I want to highlight one particul Continue reading

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In which I’m published – in ‘Science Fiction by Scientists’


As the Queen of Lab Lit, a literary subgenre whose defining characteristic includes not being science fiction, people are often surprised to discover that I do actually like SF.

But it’s true. I read little else when I was younger, and though my tastes have broadened considerably since, I still enjoy the occasional foray into the speculativ Continue reading

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To Chair or not to Chair

I have been kicking around the university scene so long that I forget how mysterious some parts of my life may seem to those just starting out. I was rather startled to be asked by a student over dinner the other week what committee chairs do, yet it is a perfectly reasonable, indeed rather sensible, question. Students may well not get exposed to c Continue reading

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ICYMI No.8: Being Professorial

I was among several people who contributed to a feature in this weeks’ Times Higher Education on being a professor.

The brief I was given was (briefly):

“Questions you might want to address are whether you should somehow have to conduct yourself differently? Dress more smartly? Continue reading

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When the Going gets Tough, be Kind

In academia there is tremendous pressure to be permanently at the top of one’s game. One is expected to be able to perform across many fronts: lecturing, grant-writing, pastoral care, admissions, outreach, committees….Not only to perform, to excel in all of these at once, from the day you start as a group leader or lecturer. It’s a tough ask. I wou Continue reading

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President Trump – first response

This morning I was asked for a comment on the implications of the US presidential election for the scientific world. This was my immediate response:

Unlike the day after the EU referendum vote, when I was bitterly upset, I just feel numb today. I don’t know if that is a kind of despair settling in because despair is precisely the wrong type of reac Continue reading

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Final Comments before (Armageddon?) Nov. 8, 2016


My early vote cast weeks ago; couldn’t rest until the ballot was submitted…

On Tuesday Nov. 8, the United States will have one of its most crucial elections in the history of the nation. Yes, I realize that many will say that just as many people felt that way when Democrat Obama faced off against Republican McCain in 2008 or when the f Continue reading

Posted in 538, Clinton, Democrat, election, mendacious, misogyny, nate silver, NYT, Obama, Politics, prediction, president, princeton election consortium, pundits, racism, Republican, sam wang, science, statistician, statistics, Trump, Upshot, US | Leave a comment

Some Animals are More Equal than Others

This week I attended the Royal Society’s Diversity Day. As everyone remarked, the audience was indeed remarkably diverse. Signing of the talks for the hard-of-hearing was available and the standard white male was in (relatively) short supply both on the platform and on the floor (though you could argue that more in attendance to hear the talks woul Continue reading

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What are science?


Get ready to blow things up

Apparently we all fucking love science, or at least we love pretty pictures, anecdotal facts, chemical explosions and slightly preachy environmentalism.

However, science is none of these things. Continue reading

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In which I am cloistered

I’ve had to do a lot of working from home these past two weeks, as our Athena SWAN submission reaches its final denouement.

(Let’s pause to appreciate the image of “Athena SWAN” as a reassuringly corpulent opera singer with Viking horns, inhaling gustily for one final, glass-ceiling-shattering bellow…)

I love working Continue reading

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Open Research London – Oct 2016 meeting

I was very relieved that the Open Research London (ORL) meeting on 19 October 2016 went well. Jon Tennant, Ross Mounce and Liz Ing-Simmons established ORL in Jan 2015 but it faded away after a couple of meetings.  I’d been thinking for some time that I should start up the group again, but was a bit wary of the work involved.  The group’ Continue reading

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Harassment Must be Challenged

In some senses I am pleased to see increasing attention being given to the topic of sexual harassment in our universities. It would be good if such attention was unnecessary, but regrettably there is no point pretending that that is the case. Two issues this past week have brought it back centre stage in HE circles. Firstly we have seen the publica Continue reading

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Inspiring the Future (or Not)

How can children find out about life beyond school/university now that careers’ advice has been so drastically cut back? I have been involved with the charity Inspiring the Future for a number of years since the launch of the sister campaign Inspiring Women in 2013. (I wrote about that launch here.) The aim of the charity is to get people from the Continue reading

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Higher Education and Research Bill – Letter to my MP

Science is Vital this week launched a campaign to seek amendments to the Higher Education and Research Bill 2016. The bill is a rather dry and procedural piece of legislation but hidden amongst its many sections and schedules are real threats to the autonomy and independence of UK universities and to the capacity of the research community to guide Continue reading

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