There’s a very real chance this could turn out to be an actual blogpost. In the original sense of the word: a web-log of what’s been happening.
Posts have been rather sparse on Reciprocal Space of late. That’s not for a want of words. It’s just that they have been expended elsewhere – over at the Guardian, in pieces about photography, preprints, the latest Science is Vital campaign (please join in) or Nicole Kidman’s performance as Rosalind Franklin in Anna Ziegler’s intelligent Photograph 51; or in the Times Higher writing about my term of office as Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUGS); or the article I wrote on the use and abuse of metrics (PDF) in research evaluation for the Indian journal, Current Science (my first foray onto the sub-continent); or in the latest paper to come from my lab, currently in revision but already available on the bioRxiv.
This dispersion of words away from my original blog home, which passed its seventh anniversary earlier this month by the way, is symptomatic of the calls of scientific duty, but also of the churn of events. Unintended outcomes that flow from the simple fact of having set out in a particular direction. I’m not complaining (or apologising – I said I would never apologise), just observing, though I didn’t intend for things to become so fallow at Reciprocal Space.
These are not the only changes in the offing. Yesterday evening I trudged home through a grey wet veil – Autumn’s warning to Summer that it is time to go. The sense of transition was reinforced this past weekend as we delivered our youngest to university. All three of our children have now flown the nest. My wife and I looked at each other. “What are we going to do now?”
Plenty, we hope. For myself I look forward to having more time for science. As I wrote in the Times Higher, at the end of this month I will step out of the heavy harness I have been wearing as DUGS. Truth be told, even as the contours of the new term take shape on the horizon, I already feel the administrative burden slipping from my shoulders. Not only will I not have to deal with the myriad tasks demanded by that role, but I will be entering a sabbatical year that I hope more than anything will give me a chance to think.
That thinking time is long overdue thanks to the familiar but irregular movements known to anyone absorbed by a life in science. Another research grant has just come to end, so another postdoc is leaving the lab and moving to pastures new. This is a good move for her but my task now is to refill the funding pot, a far from trivial endeavour. Money’s tight and the noises coming from the government are not encouraging. I need to dive once more into the waves of innovation and discovery. For crystallographers like myself, the spectacular rise of new techniques in cryo-electron microscopy is a challenge, but also an opportunity.
These moments of transition come around again and again. The scientific life is one of motion. The plates shift on the hot mantle. Looking up, I can see that the landscape has changed. But that’s OK: it is something to explore.