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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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The ‘Mine’s Bigger’ School of Science

I didn’t watch the second Trump-Clinton debate, but it is clear from all I’ve read that one of the former’s tactics to attempt to disconcert Clinton was to try to intimidate her physically – by sheer bulk and position on the stage. It doesn’t seem to have been a very successful strategy in this case, but it seems all of a piece with the man. Intimi Continue reading

Posted in CV, diversity, Equality, ERC, grant income, h index, promotion, Science Culture | Leave a comment

Ways of Seeing

It is the weekend and I have been treating myself to some time with the paper. I usually buy the Saturday Guardian. Occasionally, I will also get The Observer on a Sunday but I don’t often have the time to absorb both. Sometimes even the one is too much.

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Posted in Civilisation, Documentary, John Berger, Kenneth Clark, Science & Art, television, Ways of Seeing | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Conspiracy–the importance of being Donald

Children–and adults–often believe that when they root or hope for a team or for an event to occur, that their wishes can influence the outcome. This irrational behavior probably underlies the fervent cheering for sports teams. And candidates in political processes. Despite my adherence to scientific and rational principles, I admit that Continue reading

Posted in birther, conspiracy, income tax, liar, misogynist, racism, rigged, sex lies and videotape, sexual harassment, temperament, Trump, twitter rampage, US elections | Leave a comment

With Regret

It is always difficult to know when to say no, or enough is enough. Turning down or walking away from opportunities is a difficult thing to do, particularly when they are things you’d really like to do. But there comes a point when the scales tip too far one way, when health, family, the day job or general equilibrium are clearly suffering and it i Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, Durham, Science Culture, Science Museum, Shildon, Wonderlab | Leave a comment

Rapid or vapid?

Someone recently asked me what I thought about the open access journal Molecular Metabolism. I had just delivered a short talk to a group of researchers as a reminder about our open access policy and what my team could do to help them make sure their research was published open access.

Well, I didn’t think anything about Molecular Metabolism as I h Continue reading

Posted in Journal publishing, Open Access, peer review | Leave a comment

Warts and All

Are role models useful? What should they look like (metaphorically rather than literally; I’m not channelling dizzy blond here)? And how should they describe themselves? A recent article entitled ‘Successful women do not always make the best role models’ in the Financial Times on this subject – written more about city women than scientists, but I b Continue reading

Posted in role model, Science Culture, Sheryl Sandberg, superwoman, Women in science | Leave a comment


The Library, the collection

When it’s done right it is a wonderful thing. The collection dedicated to meeting a specific need: carefully selected, sensibly arranged, appropriately indexed, comprehensive in its coverage and range of formats. It is precisely calibrated to meet a need. On its own it is a collection – worthy of celebration. Continue reading

Posted in Books, Collections, Libraries and librarians | Leave a comment

In which green means go

It’s often been said that witnessing your child grow up is akin to scientific experiment – an intense longitudinal observational study with no control group.

As a fan of language in all of its nuances, it’s been fascinating watching Joshua learn to talk. He just turned three last Friday, and he’s already a dab hand at rudime Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Scientific thinking, Work/life balance | Leave a comment

Paradigm – the sculpture

Recently I attended the first public event at the Francis Crick Institute’s new building next to St Pancras.  Ironically the event was not about science but was a conversation with an artist, sculptor Conrad Shawcross. He created the enormous sculpture outside the new Crick building. The sculpture is called Paradigm, and was inspired by the t Continue reading

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Nature this week published its annual (and international) survey on salaries. As the article points out, many respondents use the survey as a means of venting, so the survey also provides a snapshot of (self-selecting and therefore not necessarily representative) attitudes towards jobs and careers from around the world. Many people are happy. A con Continue reading

Posted in advice, careers, early career researchers, Royal Society, Science Culture | Leave a comment

In which the calm cowers before the storm

Can you hear it?

Yes, that’s the sound of a distinct lack of undergraduates knocking around the place. Even the summer lab students have departed, off for a few weeks of R&R or debauchery before the grind kicks back in again.

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Posted in academia, students, Teaching, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which the calm cowers before the storm

Withdrawal Symptoms

As a new PI what advice is likely to be of assistance? Eight of us old hands were recently asked by the THE to write some words of wisdom, which newly-minted PI’s may or may not have found useful. Their tenor varied. There was ‘Don’t worry: we are all just making it up as we go along’ from Cambridge colleague Ottoline Leyser – which sounds quite en Continue reading

Posted in advice, early career researchers, mentoring, principal investigator, Research, Science Culture | Comments Off on Withdrawal Symptoms

Freeing the Brain

I’ve been away for the past week somewhere where I really could escape my email. (My previous post about whether one should read email on holiday was written with feeling!) When I go away I particularly like to go somewhere with water, frequently close to the sea. This year I had the pleasure of staying in a cottage overlooking the River Wye. Continue reading

Posted in academia, holidays, River Wye | Comments Off on Freeing the Brain