Latest posts

RIP Sir David MacKay

Many people have been paying tribute to David MacKay, who died on Thursday, and I would like to add my own voice. He was an extraordinary man who contributed so much to physics and wider societal issues during his tragically short life. Although I never worked directly with him, nor even interacted with him much during the many years we worked in t Continue reading

Posted in academia, Cavendish Laboratory, DECC, energy production, Sustainable Energy | Comments Off on RIP Sir David MacKay

In which I feel a bit too old for this game sometimes

Age is a slippery thing. Most days I still feel like that tentative new PhD student, pulling 80-hour weeks at the University of Washington Health Sciences Center in Seattle. By the red glow of the safelight, I’d feed dusky rectangles of film into the developing machine and they’d emerge clear, slightly sticky and covered with a primitive pattern of Continue reading

Posted in Nostalgia, Scientific method, students, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which I feel a bit too old for this game sometimes

On cooperation between dogs and squirrels

Warm beef topside baguette and a pint of Seafarer's


I’ve had a lovely morning walking round Harris’s Copse; not shooting anything, but seeing a few wood pigeons who are too easily spooked. A baguette and a pint for lunch from the Robin Hood, and back in, this time via the south entrance.

Continue reading
Posted in Me, shooting | Comments Off on On cooperation between dogs and squirrels

What have I got to Lose?

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ sang Janis Joplin, and working out what – if anything – there is to lose in general is frequently a good strategy. This was brought home to me recently in discussing a young researcher’s plans. Having attended a confidence-building workshop she had returned to her office and decided to ch Continue reading

Posted in careers, decision, opportunity, risk, Science Culture | Comments Off on What have I got to Lose?


When in doubt, read the instructions

is to productivity

what aphorisms are

to meaning.

Continue reading
Posted in aphorism, book reviews, doubt, facebook, instructions, Life, life story, meaning, short poem | Comments Off on Bibliotherapy

Heroines We Still Need

I have not been able to think much about blogging recently due to a variety of factors culminating in the wedding last weekend of my daughter. Not that I had much to do with the organisation of the wedding but families and family business, as one of my recent posts spelled out, should be (and are) central to academics and scientists just as much to Continue reading

Posted in biography, Florence Nightingale, Mark Bostridge, statistics, Vera Brittain, Women in science | Comments Off on Heroines We Still Need

What Works: A Review

My review of What Works Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet can be found at Nature. This is a book that  is intended to be a guide to institutional action. I was somewhat underwhelmed, as my review makes plain. If you want a more positive take, you may also be interested in fellow Cantabrigian Victoria Bateman’s review in the Times Highe Continue reading

Comments Off on What Works: A Review

ICYMI No. 3: Academic publishing on the radio

This is rather self-serving, even by my standards, but I made a plan with these “In Case You Missed It” posts and I’m sticking to it. I have been on the radio a couple of times in the past month talking about academic publishing. It’s not a topic that often gets aired so I  was pleased to see two radio buses come along in quick succession, so Continue reading

Posted in Academic publishing, Open Access | Comments Off on ICYMI No. 3: Academic publishing on the radio

Review: Heart of the Original

Steve Aylett’s short book on originality, creativity and individuality may conform externally to the rectilinear format of most other books but is otherwise highly elliptical. I found it maddening.

Heart of the Original
Heart of the Original – Alan Moore loved it. 

Continue reading
Posted in book review | Comments Off on Review: Heart of the Original

Manifesto for Change

‘Science needs women’ proclaims the L’Oreal/UNESCO For Women in Science awards tagline. For the last 18 years the pairing has been awarding five laureates to women from different geographical regions around the world each year to celebrate (and publicise) their success. With L’Oreal’s effective PR machine, they are able to reach mainstream media in Continue reading

Posted in Charlotte Proudman, discrimination, Equality, L'Oreal For Women in Science, sexism, Women in science | Comments Off on Manifesto for Change



First, I must say that I feel more than a tinge of guilt at my lack of ‘productivity’ on the OT site in recent months. I would like to maintain that it’s my hectic schedule, science, grants, teaching, papers, reviewing–and outside the lab, the recent election to the American Society for Cell Biology’s Public Policy Co Continue reading

Posted in damage, flood, grants, lab, pending, Research, science | Comments Off on Pending


Everything the light touches

Everything the light touches

Posted in Budapest, Fun, Holiday, The Lion King | Comments Off on Budapest

Who Do You Care For?

The challenges associated with parental responsibilities are obvious and much-discussed. For many scientists they can seem overwhelming, limiting and sometimes ultimately career-destroying. The recent booklet published by the Royal Society (Parent Carer Scientist) that I wrote about before, attempts to bust some of the myths and show the many diffe Continue reading

Posted in caring, elder care, Equality, health, parents, Science Culture | Comments Off on Who Do You Care For?

Review: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright

After publishing my round-up of the books I’d read in 2015, the author Christopher Edge got in touch via twitter to offer a review copy of his new book, The Many Worlds of Albie Bright.

It’s a short novel for children which has an ambitious amount of science threaded into the plot. At the beginning of the story young Albie has just lost his physici Continue reading

Posted in book review | Comments Off on Review: The Many Worlds of Albie Bright


I first came to work at NIMR Mill Hill back in the blessed innocent times of 1989. After a few months my boss sent me on a course about ‘Motivation’. The course was organised by Aslib, and was held at their grand HQ in London’s Belgrave Square. It was good to be out of the office dor a day, having some thinking time with a group of other librarians Continue reading

Comments Off on Metavation