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A Holistic CV

Just recently at a dinner for heads of the Cambridge colleges the issue of the toxic culture some research students find themselves in was raised. We all know the issues exist and, in this context, the question was what could our colleges do to assist. Where it is the relationship with the supervisor that has gone wrong, and the student is willing – by no means guaranteed to be the case – to raise Continue reading

Posted in DORA, mentoring, Research, Royal Society, Science Culture, toxic cultures | Leave a comment

Hierarchies and the Power Imbalance

It is perhaps helpful, if depressing, that stories of harassment and bullying in many spheres now reach headline status.  Helpful because it means these issues get an airing instead of simply lurking in the long grass. Just this week there have been the resurrection of accusations of bullying against the former speaker John Bercow, and the resignation of a high profile MSP for inappropriate (for w Continue reading

Posted in bullying, Paul Nurse, PhD students, Science Culture, Supervisor | Leave a comment

It’s Not My Brexit Either

I am trying to decide whether to remove the Twitter ‘Scientists for the EU’ twibbon from my profile. I still am a scientist and I’m still pro EU, but there’s no longer quite the same message to be conveyed. Fellow OT blogger Stephen Curry has written eloquently how January 31st was not about his Brexit, so I won’t repeat his arguments, with which I wholeheartedly agree. I do, however, have to deci Continue reading

Posted in ARPA, Brexit, ERC, EU, Science Funding | Leave a comment

This is not my Brexit day

It is 31st January 2020 and as of 11 pm tonight the UK will no longer be a member of the European Union. We have arrived at Brexit day.

U2 and the EU

But this is not my Brexit. I did not want it. Continue reading

Posted in Science & Politics | Leave a comment

Does it pass the smell-test? Review of “The DNA of you and me”


Moving into 2020, I realize that this is now my 10th year of blogging, a sport that I never really signed up for. In 2010, my daughter was 13 years old; now she is preparing for a series of interviews for graduate programs in the biosciences. Time flies! And in the meantime, she is now suggesting books for me to read, rather than the other-way-round. One such book was a new LabLit novel called “T Continue reading

Posted in Andrea Rothman, author, fiction, lab, Lablit, novel, olfatory, postdoc, Research, reviews, science, sense of smell, smell test, student, The DNA of you and me | Comments Off on Does it pass the smell-test? Review of “The DNA of you and me”

No More Red Meat?

The terrifying and deadly fires in Australia are a grim reminder of climate change. Greta Thunberg should be a prick (indeed more than a prick) to everyone’s conscience, reminding us that each and every one of us has a part to play in reducing global emissions through our individual carbon footprints. Thinking hard about what our personal contribution can be should be a backdrop to our l Continue reading

Posted in catering, Churchill College, sustainability, vegan | Comments Off on No More Red Meat?

Thinking about Your Workload

The first time I was asked to serve on a research council (standing) committee, when a young(ish) researcher, I did not seek my head of department’s position. I informed him, since it happened we worked closely together, but it did not occur to me to ask permission, to check whether he thought it was compatible with my departmental job. I just assumed it was part of the job. The only quibble I had Continue reading

Posted in Alice Roberts, Athena Swan, Communicating Science, mental health, Science Culture | Comments Off on Thinking about Your Workload

Shenanigans with the Railways

Rules about railway tickets have clearly always been mysterious, as this Punch cartoon of 1869 makes clear.

Punch 1869b

 “‘Station Master say, Mum, as cats is ‘dogs,’ and rabbits is ‘dogs,’ and so’s parrots; but this ere ‘tortis’ is an insect, so there ain’t no charge for it!”

In that case a station master (do such people even exist now? Continue reading

Posted in Great Northern, refund, trains, travel | Comments Off on Shenanigans with the Railways

2019 Top Ten (plus one, again)

This year’s question: is it pathetic that Adventures in Wonderland has turned into an annual top-ten-photo blog? Perhaps I’ll do better in 2020. Recent history suggests not, however.

Anyway, on to my favourite ten (plus one, as usual) photographs of 2019, in no particular order.

Continue reading
Posted in Hobbies, motorsports, Photography, racing | Comments Off on 2019 Top Ten (plus one, again)

How Long does it take to Gain Expertise?

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s right-hand man, currently is said to be set on shaking up the Civil Service. The three elements that are rumoured to be on the agenda are:

  • Better training in data science, systems thinking and ‘super-forecasting;
  • Staff will spend longer in a given post than the current expectation of 18 months; and
  • Civil servants will be ‘reoriented to the public’;

I am quoting Continue reading

Posted in Civil Service, Dominic Cummings, Interdisciplinary Science, Science Funding, UKRI | Comments Off on How Long does it take to Gain Expertise?

2019 in 31 photographs

My computer tells me I took over 3,700 photographs in 2019. Yikes!

Photos of 2019

However, I have winnowed them down to just 31, should you care to take a look. I have been fortunate this year to travel far and wide – or should I say reckless? Continue reading

Posted in Scientific Life, travel | Comments Off on 2019 in 31 photographs

Books read in 2019

In a kinder, happier age, when I used to write regularly for the Guardian’s science blog network, I would post summaries of the books I had read at the end of each year. Since the network closed in 2018 I have rather lost the habit. Looking back a the list of titles I got though in 2019, I realise how much I share with Robin Ince the problem of retention. I can only marvel at those who seem to be Continue reading

Posted in book review | Comments Off on Books read in 2019

My carbon bootprint

What was your carbon footprint for 2019? Mine was more of a bootprint, almost entirely because of flying.

Airplane - B&W

International travel has long been considered one of the perks of academic life, something that lifted the job out of the ordinary and cemented our membership of a trans-national community of scientists and scholars. Over the years I have travelled to Grenoble and Hamburg for experiments, to Continue reading

Posted in science, Scientific Life, travel | Comments Off on My carbon bootprint

In which my mother stands behind me, and I mother in turn

The winter always belonged to my mother and me.

We both loved the late autumn, when the last of the leaves plastered the pavements in a smear of color, and our breath fogged the morning air. November also usually brought the first snows, in that faraway land of four proper seasons – a land that seems so dreamlike now in this drizzly country of muddy ivy green.

Continue reading
Posted in Domestic bliss, Joshua, Nostalgia, The ageing process, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which my mother stands behind me, and I mother in turn

Leaning In or Leaning Out: Who does What (and Why)?

Girly swot Brenda Hale, otherwise known as the outgoing President of the Supreme Court with an impressive taste in brooches (see figure),
was quoted recently as saying:

“I encountered many young men from public school backgrounds who felt entitled to good jobs. And I realised that actually, quite a few of them were no better than me and, in some cases, not as good as me. And that made me feel: OK Continue reading

Posted in Baroness Brenda Hale, bias, Equality, publication, Women in science | Comments Off on Leaning In or Leaning Out: Who does What (and Why)?