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The Autopsy, and what next?

I began this blog on Nov. 13, less than a week after the elections. It was too painful for me to continue. Not that there are many bright spots on the horizon that have appeared over the last 6 weeks, but the time has come for me to put this blog to rest and move on. So here it is, no less painful, but blunted slightly by mankind’s ability to Continue reading

Posted in Democrat, environment, Hilary, polls, Republican, science, transition team, Trump, US election | Leave a comment

The Cost of Education

There are many myths about the University of Cambridge (and indeed Oxford), based on historical misinformation, literature and a general feeling that it is ‘different’ from the rest of the world. Novels like Brideshead Revisited – admittedly referring to Oxford rather than Cambridge, but we are generally lumped together – must have something to do Continue reading

Posted in accommodation, Churchill College, education, state sector | Leave a comment

Professional Bodies in the Diversity Frame

All male invited speakers at conferences or a senior leadership team that contains not a single woman are common across the employment landscape. In the physical sciences and engineering the problem is particularly acute because the numbers of women who start off in the sector are unacceptably low. On the back of this the Institution of Engineering Continue reading

Posted in Royal Academy of Engineering, Science Council, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on Professional Bodies in the Diversity Frame

Weird things from publishers part 94

Many of the things that publishers do are perplexing, frustrating or reek of exploitation (it’s arguable that even the act of selling us subscriptions falls into the latter category) . I wrote earlier this year about a perplexing and frustrating example. Here’s some more.

A two-faced article

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Posted in Journal publishing, Open Access | Comments Off on Weird things from publishers part 94

Beyond the Silo Mentality

I have been fretting about the challenges of appropriately evaluating interdisciplinary work for many years. My specific beef has been about grant assessment in the Research Councils at the interface between physics and biology, because that is where my research expertise sits, and I have seen – and heard about – too many instances of what would ap Continue reading

Posted in HEFCE, interdisciplinarity, Interdisciplinary Science, REF21, Research | Comments Off on Beyond the Silo Mentality

Evasive Tactics?

If my last post discussed an important point that doesn’t typically receive much notice – although I’m glad to say the post, and its accompanying repost on the THE website both did – this current one is meant simply as a piece of fun. I write from Brussels where I have been attending one of the ERC’s Scientific Council plenaries. I am amused by the Continue reading

Posted in Brussles, ERC, Science Culture | Comments Off on Evasive Tactics?

Do You Want to be Described as Hard Working?

I visited Oxford this week to talk to the Women in Physics group, mainly made up of students and postdocs (not all of whom were women). Tea and excellent scones were provided to stimulate good discussion. I was duly grilled as the voice of experience and asked to provide advice about career progression and setbacks. I want to highlight one particul Continue reading

Posted in job-hunting, letters of reference, Madera, Women in science | Comments Off on Do You Want to be Described as Hard Working?

In which I’m published – in ‘Science Fiction by Scientists’


As the Queen of Lab Lit, a literary subgenre whose defining characteristic includes not being science fiction, people are often surprised to discover that I do actually like SF.

But it’s true. I read little else when I was younger, and though my tastes have broadened considerably since, I still enjoy the occasional foray into the speculativ Continue reading

Posted in Lablit, Writing | Comments Off on In which I’m published – in ‘Science Fiction by Scientists’

To Chair or not to Chair

I have been kicking around the university scene so long that I forget how mysterious some parts of my life may seem to those just starting out. I was rather startled to be asked by a student over dinner the other week what committee chairs do, yet it is a perfectly reasonable, indeed rather sensible, question. Students may well not get exposed to c Continue reading

Posted in committee meetings, Francis Cornford, Science Culture | Comments Off on To Chair or not to Chair

ICYMI No.8: Being Professorial

I was among several people who contributed to a feature in this weeks’ Times Higher Education on being a professor.

The brief I was given was (briefly):

“Questions you might want to address are whether you should somehow have to conduct yourself differently? Dress more smartly? Continue reading

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When the Going gets Tough, be Kind

In academia there is tremendous pressure to be permanently at the top of one’s game. One is expected to be able to perform across many fronts: lecturing, grant-writing, pastoral care, admissions, outreach, committees….Not only to perform, to excel in all of these at once, from the day you start as a group leader or lecturer. It’s a tough ask. I wou Continue reading

Posted in compassion, education, Equality, hate, misogyny | Comments Off on When the Going gets Tough, be Kind

President Trump – first response

This morning I was asked for a comment on the implications of the US presidential election for the scientific world. This was my immediate response:

Unlike the day after the EU referendum vote, when I was bitterly upset, I just feel numb today. I don’t know if that is a kind of despair settling in because despair is precisely the wrong type of reac Continue reading

Posted in Science & Politics | Comments Off on President Trump – first response

Final Comments before (Armageddon?) Nov. 8, 2016


My early vote cast weeks ago; couldn’t rest until the ballot was submitted…

On Tuesday Nov. 8, the United States will have one of its most crucial elections in the history of the nation. Yes, I realize that many will say that just as many people felt that way when Democrat Obama faced off against Republican McCain in 2008 or when the f Continue reading

Posted in 538, Clinton, Democrat, election, mendacious, misogyny, nate silver, NYT, Obama, Politics, prediction, president, princeton election consortium, pundits, racism, Republican, sam wang, science, statistician, statistics, Trump, Upshot, US | Comments Off on Final Comments before (Armageddon?) Nov. 8, 2016

Some Animals are More Equal than Others

This week I attended the Royal Society’s Diversity Day. As everyone remarked, the audience was indeed remarkably diverse. Signing of the talks for the hard-of-hearing was available and the standard white male was in (relatively) short supply both on the platform and on the floor (though you could argue that more in attendance to hear the talks woul Continue reading

Posted in committees, Equality, George Orwell, Unconscious bias, Women in science | Comments Off on Some Animals are More Equal than Others