Latest posts

In which normal life flickers just ’round the corner

Today on a neighbourhood walk with my son, blustery and cold with a few flecks of rain, we passed a window that still had a faded child-drawn rainbow and the advice to “stay safe”. It struck me as rather quaint, like a decades-old newspaper you might find lining a crate of belongings in the attic. A world that was once new and perilous had evolved into a blasé shrug of familiarity.

Continue reading

Posted in academia, Epidemics, Research, The profession of science, work-life balance | Leave a comment


This is a egg.

A egg. Recently.

Now, you might say, so what, that looks just like any old egg. Continue reading

Posted in Domesticrox | Leave a comment

Red Tape

The announcement of a review of bureaucratic red tape in universities may bring either a smile of relief or a hollow laugh. Why are universities (and funding bodies) so entangled in this nasty stuff? Is it because they love to hire lots of makeweight administrators regardless of need (I think not!), or is it because the Government imposes endless layers of regulatory checks and balances? Once upon Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Equality, forms, panels, Science Culture, Science Funding, UKRI | Leave a comment


You’ll both no doubt recall an earlier post in which I showed an heirloom chair — one of six — that had been rendered useless (at least as a chair) by the depredations of a teething puppy. Here it is, as a reminder. The chair, that is. I’m happy to say that the same chair has been restored, and can now be used once again as a chair.

A Much-Abused Heirloom. Continue reading

Posted in chair, heirloom, verdant woodcraft | Comments Off on Chair


As we ‘celebrate’ the anniversary of the UK’s first national lockdown this week, reflection seems in order. Things that seemed unimaginable last March, we now take in our stride, in the sense that we simply get on with them. Coming to terms with them is a different matter. For all those who’ve lost family and friends, inevitably things will never be the same. Grieving their loss will continue to b Continue reading

Posted in education, kindness, pandemic, Science Culture, Spring | Comments Off on Burnout

How are Universities Supporting Those Worst Affected by the Pandemic?

This pandemic has thrown all kinds of inequalities into sharp focus, ranging from fundamental matters of health and wellbeing to job security. The consequences of all these issues will echo down the years ahead, long after the pandemic is a fading nightmare. In terms of (higher) education, the digital divide and who does the homeschooling will both cast a long shadow on opportunity and career prog Continue reading

Posted in Athena Swan, Equality, Liverpool University, National Academy of Sciences, pandemic, tenure clock, Women in science | Comments Off on How are Universities Supporting Those Worst Affected by the Pandemic?


‘Hell’, said Jean-Paul Sartre, is ‘Other People’. Although I expect he said it in French. And well might I sympathize. Much has been said about the mental health problems of people suffering from the absence of human contact during the Current Crisis. Rather less has been noised concerning curmudgeons misanthropes people such as myself who find the absence of human contact Continue reading

Posted in disclutteration, Domesticrox, Dreaming, dumpster, Jean-Paul Sartre, Marie Kondo, skip, Technicrox | Comments Off on Sartre


Following the input from the Rating Conferences that I wrote about in the last blog the MSc curriculum revision project team found ourselves going around in circles:

  • Core courses or not? And if so how many? And what makes a course “core”?
  • Specializations or not? Continue reading
Posted in education, Materials Science | Comments Off on Stalemate

Women as Natural Philosophers: Choosing to Challenge

When the Royal Society was founded in 1660, its first Fellows would have been known not as scientists, but as natural philosophers. Science and scientists were words that came into common parlance only around two hundred years later. So, the Isaac Newton’s and the Robert Boyle’s of the day would have been happy to be thought of as philosophers; it wasn’t felt necessary for there to be distinctions Continue reading

Posted in Margaret Cavendish, Mary Astell, Rene Descartes, Women in science | Comments Off on Women as Natural Philosophers: Choosing to Challenge

Do You Cope with Office Politics or Leverage them?

In academia, appraisals (call them what you will) get different degrees of serious attention. Equally, people pay more or less heed to them, depending on personal circumstances and whether anything useful is said. However, a recent study shows that, as with so much of the working world, subtle gender biases are at play. However well-meaning the appraiser may be in the feedback they give, however p Continue reading

Posted in careers, confidence, Equality, feedback, implicit bias, Impostor syndrome, Science Culture, Stereotypes | Comments Off on Do You Cope with Office Politics or Leverage them?


Pliny the Elder, yes, that’s the one, the author of Natural History, which got a very poor review on Goodreads at the time, one reader castigating the author as ‘that voluminous, industrious, unphilosophical, gullible, unsystematic old gossip’, who nevertheless died as philosophical a death as you please when studying the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, yes, the same that barbecue Continue reading

Posted in A very short history of sex and chocolate, ambry, galen, hetaera, incunabulum, pliny, procolophonid, scansioripterygid, Science Is Vital, Writing & Reading, yi | Comments Off on Pliny

In which we near end-game

Sight for sore eyes

January and February are always my least favorite months, but I can’t remember a winter when I longed for spring as desperately as this one. It’s the pandemic, of course, which has sucked the world dry of what little joy remains, damp and grey and interminable.

Locked down and stultifying in the sameness of life, I did what I could to appreciate what pleasures were Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Epidemics, Gardening, Joshua, work-life balance | Comments Off on In which we near end-game

Will ARIA Sing?

The much trailed UK version of ARPA now has a name, and it’s not BARPA or UKARPA, it’s ARIA: the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. Not, note, Innovation but Invention. Is this going to be an important distinction or simply permit the old trope of ‘Brits are good at inventing but not making money’ to come to the fore again? Before this week’s formal Government announcement, the Commons Select Continue reading

Posted in ARPA, diversity, high risk, Science Funding, Women in science | Comments Off on Will ARIA Sing?


What difference a couple of weeks makes. Recall that earlier this month I was out in a blizzard trying to secure a tarpaulin over the hen run, all the while running the risk of hypothermia, or at the very least playing a bit part in a painting by Marc Chagall.

Much the same as then, but now.

Well, all change. Continue reading

Posted in Blog Norfolk!, Domesticrox, Gardening | Comments Off on Cool

The Politics of White Lab Coats

Everyone knows what a scientist looks like. The species is easily identifiable because they wear a white lab coat wherever they go. It is almost as if, if you don’t wear a white coat you can’t be a serious scientist, in the eyes of the media. It was noticeable, on this week’s International Day for Girls and Women in Science, how few women (and girls) posted selfies of themselves so attired to prov Continue reading

Posted in funding, Horizon Europe, Prime Minister, Science Culture, Science Funding, vaccination | Comments Off on The Politics of White Lab Coats