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The ABC of panel scoring: Anchoring, Bias and Committee Procedures

Academic life is particularly full of rank ordered lists, even if they are frequently not transparently available. From undergraduate examinations to professorial promotions, from REF (and in future TEF) marks to grant-awarding panels, the scores matter. Anyone who has ever been ‘scored’ will worry about the accuracy of the scores given; anyone who Continue reading

Posted in committee meetings, decisions, rank-ordered lists, Research, Science Funding | Comments Off on The ABC of panel scoring: Anchoring, Bias and Committee Procedures

No escape from the geeky scientist phenotype–or is that stereotype?


Professor John Nerdelbaum Frink, Jr., scientist from “The Simpsons.” A familiar stereotype.

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Posted in doddering fools, exxon, Geek, humor, intoverts, nerd, phenotype, Research, science, scientist, spotify, stereotype, the simpsons | Comments Off on No escape from the geeky scientist phenotype–or is that stereotype?

In which we sort ourselves out

Writing space: the final frontier

When you move into a new house, you unpack about 90% of your belongings in the first months. And then, of course, there’s that lingering tail that seems to get put off indefinitely.

This asymptote of neglect can be indicative: if you haven’t opened a box for a few years, it’s likely you never wi Continue reading

Posted in Domestic bliss, Lablit, Writing | Comments Off on In which we sort ourselves out

Mentoring Matters, but for Whom?

In response to my recent post on New Year Frustrations, I received a tweet complaining that in this particular person’s university female postdocs contractually could not receive mentoring. That statement can be read in two ways: either that female postdocs are being actively disadvantaged in comparison with their male counterparts (which would be Continue reading

Posted in advice, appraisal, early career researchers, postdocs, Research, Women in science | Comments Off on Mentoring Matters, but for Whom?

Synaptic Transfer and Interdisciplinarity

I spent much of the Christmas break admiring my new granddaughter’s constantly changing and newly acquired skills as she progressed from 8 weeks old to 10; the sense of new synaptic connections being made was very strong as her hand-eye coordination improved and she began to get some sense of one limb being distinct from another. So, reading Brigit Continue reading

Posted in Communicating Science, david mitchell, David Rowan, Interdisciplinary Science, Unconscious bias, Virginia Valian | Comments Off on Synaptic Transfer and Interdisciplinarity

In which I bring Lego to lab meeting

Our floor recently initiated a monthly lunchtime meeting as an informal feedback conduit. Although the individual labs all work in one mammoth communal room, the research that goes on is disparate. The key to propelling your project forward might be someone else’s knowledge, or a helpful reagent stashed unbeknownst to you in a fridge just one Continue reading

Posted in Research, Scientific thinking | Comments Off on In which I bring Lego to lab meeting

ICYMI No.10 – New Year’s Resolution

Along with many of my academic colleagues from across the nation, I was asked by the Times Higher Education to set down at least one new year’s resolution for 2017.

I drew inspiration from Richard Hamming (whom I wrote about way back in the glory days of 2009)…

By the way, now that I have reach number 10 in this “In case you missed it&# Continue reading

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Hard Day’s Night

Last year was mental.

Back in December 2015, with about about 10 days’ notice, a colleague and I flew to Orlando on a Sunday lunchtime, ran a meeting Monday morning, and flew home Monday night.

That was just the start. Continue reading

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New Year Frustrations

I spent some of my time off around New Year attempting to start as I mean to go on by tidying my ‘home office’. In the run-up to Christmas, as exhaustion took over and time ran out, I had increasingly just been dumping piles of paper precariously on the edge of my desk as I rushed in from meetings. No sorting; no tidying; no order. So January 1st s Continue reading

Posted in Equality, GCSE, Glass Cliff, Laura Bates, Women in science | Comments Off on New Year Frustrations

In which horizons expand

Every career probably has a tipping point. Twenty-seven years after embarking on my PhD, a period riddled with false starts, uncertainties, twists and turns, I sense the shifting of weight beneath me and momentum gathering as I start to swing to some bright but unknown Other Side.

Nothing has materially changed about my job description or status. Continue reading

Posted in academia, careers, Research, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which horizons expand

2016 Top Ten (plus one)

It seems ridiculous that my last post on Occam’s Typewriter was my favourite ten photographs of 2015… posted in June of the following year(!). That’s some top-shelf procrastination right there, folks. So, as partial remedy, I’m posting my picks of 2016 right now – New Year’s Day, 2017. Getting the new year off to Continue reading

Posted in Hobbies, motorsports, nature, Photography, racing, travel | Comments Off on 2016 Top Ten (plus one)

2016 in pictures

Rather than attempting to sum up the tumultuous year just past in words, let me simply share with you some of the photographs that I took in 2016.

The image below is an embedded album from my Flickr account. I’m not sure that it does very much so it’s probably best to click on the image. This will take you to the album on Flickr where y Continue reading

Posted in Fun, Science & Art | Comments Off on 2016 in pictures

ICYMI No. 9: Preprints and Embargoes

I’m rather late getting round to this but, for the record, here is a piece I wrote for Research Fortnight in late November on the challenges that preprints pose to embargoed press releases of research reports.

The tl;dr version (though the piece is only 800 words!) is that the benefits of preprints very likely outweigh the convenience of emba Continue reading

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The History of Keeping the Damned Women Out

It is easy to forget that what is your daily life today is tomorrow’s history: history is not just about the great white men long dead and buried. A talk I attended a few weeks ago vividly brought this to life for me. The talk was by Nancy Weiss Malkiel, one of the first women hired as faculty at Princeton back in 1969, a university where she has b Continue reading

Posted in Churchill College, coeducation, education, Equality, Nancy Malkiel, Princeton, Women in science | Comments Off on The History of Keeping the Damned Women Out

In which an era ends

She was decent and hard-working. She seldom complained, even when she got herself into a jam.

She witnessed my awakening as a writer, from tentative, cliché-prone beginner to confident, stripped-down wordsmith capable of earning money and book deals.

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Posted in Lablit, Nostalgia, Work/life balance, Writing | Comments Off on In which an era ends