Latest posts

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 | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

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 | Leave a comment

Sweet Serendipitous Science

One of the best arguments for supporting basic science is that serendipitous discoveries — those not necessarily outlined in a grant proposal — have always been key to scientific progress. Many of us who lobby for basic science like to use the wonderful example of penicillin, whose discovery was attributed to Alexander Fleming, who noti Continue reading

Posted in allulose, Andrew Han, basic science, fructose, Izumori, Newsweek, penicillin, Research, science, sugars | Leave a comment

Choosing the Right Criteria

A year ago Cambridge University launched its book ‘The Meaning of Success’ and published a letter calling on the HE community to consider what the sector values and should be promoting, figuratively and, when it comes to people, literally. This dialogue I hope has been continuing during the year in universities around the country. In Ca Continue reading

Posted in career progression, Equality, International Woman's Day, Meaning of Success, mobility, promotion, Women in science | Leave a comment

Psychology Journal Bans Almost All of Statistics

Amongst the big news last week (besides the octopus-squid battle, a dress, and a singer falling over whilst – presumably – sober) was the release of an editorial from the journal “Basic and Applied Social Psychology” (BASP) which announced that it was banning p-values. There was much rejoicing by people who didn’t read Continue reading

Posted in science publishing, statistics | Leave a comment

Being mortal and being Crick

Two more book reviews from my reading list for this year.

On several occasions while reading Being Mortal, surgeon Atul Gawande’s book about end-of-life care, I could feel a lump swelling in my throat and tears pressing for release. I’m not an emotional type but this is an intense book.

Continue reading
Posted in book review, death, Life | Comments Off

Why Can’t a Woman be more like a Man?

Last autumn there were some shocking figures released by the Royal Society regarding the new cohort of University Research Fellows (URFs): only two out of 43 were women. Many of us were very disappointed and depressed by these figures. I wrote about them at the time , as did the Royal Society’s President Paul Nurse on his own blog. But I̵ Continue reading

Posted in Equality, Paul Nurse, Royal Society, University Research Fellows, Women in science | Comments Off

On immortality

From the “Making dreams come true” department, we recently had a sauna installed at the new gaff.

Warming up
Warming up

It’s very nice, and you should know that South Eastern trains have a special, hidden, weekend fare that lets you use the High Speed service for the same price as the slow train, and that I can pick you up from the station.

Continue reading
Posted in immortality, Me, Nonsense, sauna | Comments Off

Contemplating Education Matters

This past week it was announced that I would be assuming the Presidency of the British Science Association (the BSA, formerly simply the British Association or the BA). It is a great honour to be asked to follow in the footsteps of so many of the most illustrious scientists of the last 170 odd years. The list of previous incumbents is truly humblin Continue reading

Posted in British Science Association, DCMS, education, Vision for STEM education | Comments Off