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Building a Humane Workplace

This is the unabridged/unedited version of an article that first appeared a couple of weeks ago in Optics and Photonics.

Increasingly industry has woken up to the fact that diverse teams make better decisions and, by implication, make more money. Although the driver of higher profits does not immediately translate to academia, making better decisio Continue reading

Posted in bullying, Equality, group dynamics, sexism | Comments Off on Building a Humane Workplace

Status Report – February 2017

I said when I started this blog in 2008 that I would not promise to post regularly, so as to avoid the endless repetition of apologies for failing to write. And I’m not about to start apologising now, even though the regularity of my posting is not what it once was – not even close. But I’m disappointed that I seem to have got out of the habi Continue reading

Posted in ICYMI | Comments Off on Status Report – February 2017

In which I make myself useful

Two centrifuge buckets, both alike in dignity?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that an ageing group leader is, by definition, out of touch when it comes to the lab. After all, we spend most of our time writing grants and papers, fretting about ever-tightening budgets and attempting to navigate an arcane, deeply political academic minef Continue reading

Posted in Kit, Research, Silliness, The profession of science | Comments Off on In which I make myself useful

Let’s Celebrate with UNESCO

Today, February 11th 2017, is the first UNESCO’s International Day of Women & Girls in Science. This is a day to remind ourselves not that ‘you’ve come a long way baby’ in the words of a now infamous advertisement campaign for cigarettes, but a day to celebrate those who have lived their dream and made a career for themselves in science; and a Continue reading

Posted in encouragement, Eugenia Kumacheva, L'Oreal For Women in Science, Science Culture, Women in science | Comments Off on Let’s Celebrate with UNESCO

Podcath part III: sci-fi audio drama edition

Radio drama is making a big comeback in the form of podcasts, with plenty of high quality science fiction to choose from. Here are some of my favourites.

I’ve been a science fiction fan since I first read John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids as a kid. I quickly graduated to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books (I’m proudly sporting a “Vote Zaphod Be Continue reading

Posted in fiction, reviews, Silliness, technology, why I love the internet | Comments Off on Podcath part III: sci-fi audio drama edition

Conspiracy or Cock-up?

Inclusivity seems something of a current buzzword. When Theresa May came to office she stated clearly in her first speech that ‘we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few’. One of her immediate actions was to call for an audit to tackle public sector racial disparities. One would hope this means diversity and inclusivity matters to her a Continue reading

Posted in BEIS, Equality, Science Funding, Sir John Kingman, Sir Mark Walport, UKRI | Comments Off on Conspiracy or Cock-up?

Brits! You can buy my book now

“Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide” is out NOW in the UK. It’s also available for pre-order everywhere else, and will be released on March 14th in the USA and on March 20th in Canada and elsewhere. Links to all major vendors are available here – or ask your friendly local independent bookstore!

I’ve also set up Continue reading

Posted in furry friends, photos, publishing, Writing | Comments Off on Brits! You can buy my book now

The president needs a civics lesson

President Trump needs a civics lesson. First I would suggest that he reads 1st amendment of the US Constitution. I know this might be hard for a president who doesn’t read but it is a short read. Alternately, he could maybe request that Bill O’Reilly read it out loud on his show if this is easier for him.

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Posted in 1st amendment, Muslim Ban, Trump, Trump executive order | Comments Off on The president needs a civics lesson

Cultural Values in a Time Warp

At the start of the year I wrote about my frustrations with the slow pace of change, specifically with regard to the situation for women in science in academia but also more broadly. This week I am forcibly reminded again how slowly our society changes and this time it’s the case of how it impacts on young children. Impact on them means impact on t Continue reading

Posted in Barbie dolls, education, Equality, gender stereotypes, self-belief, toys | Comments Off on Cultural Values in a Time Warp

Last Saturday:



Photo taken outside the Trump building. I borrowed the sign from a lovely group of people I met at the march

Up next: March for Science (the Vancouver chapter)

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Posted in activism, Canada, current affairs, feminism, personal, photos, Politics, science | Comments Off on Last Saturday:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House

Full disclosure: I am not a psychiatrist.

But it doesn’t take a board certified psychiatrist to see ominous parallels between the behavior of the recently elected president of the United States and a mental illness known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

The Mayo Clinic describes NPD in the following way:

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Posted in crowd size, inauguration, narcissistic personality disorder, Politics, president, presidential elections, Trump, US | Comments Off on Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House

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?