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 habit and I’d like to turn that around. 

I’ve been busy, you see. I know it’s a boring and commonplace excuse. I know we’re all busy – and, believe me, I try not to trot out that answer whenever anyone starts up a casual conversation with “How are things?”, but here I am in mid-February and only now have I a moment to pause and have a look around at 2017. 

I’m not going to go into all the details tonight but in the past couple of weeks there has been — among other things — the all-too-common academic treadmill of exam marking (a pile of scripts to be second-marked still awaits me in the office) and a slew of grant proposals to be graded for an upcoming panel of the European Research Council. That was a lot more interesting that marking exams which – no offence to my students – is a very repetitive task, but I’ll talk about that another time since it takes me into the topic of research evaluation, which has become something of a hobby horse. 

While on that horse I was also recently occupied helping to prepare the announcement of the news that Imperial College has signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment – something I’ve been campaigning for more or less since the initiative was launched back in 2013. Again I’ll have more to say on that subject another night. Soon, I hope. 

And speaking of campaigns, Science is Vital is currently pressing government and parliament to ensure that, whatever happens in the Brexit negotiations, the UK fights to keep close and productive research relationships with the EU (including funding mechanisms if at all possible) and protects the rights of EU nationals working as researchers in this country. The plans for our lobby a couple of weeks ago gobbled up more chunks of time in early 2017.

Science is Vital Lobby - Jan 2017We might be smiling but inside we’re crying. Brexit – what a shambles. 

The lobby itself was great, but in some ways also a disappointment. Andrew Steele and I wrote up an account for Robin Ince’s new Cosmic Shambles site and I scribbled another one for the SiV blog. What was great was the passion on show from the supporters, about thirty of them, who turned up to plead with MPs. But we had struggled to rally the numbers we needed to button-hole every single parliamentarian and the woeful performance of Parliament in the debates over the Article 50 Bill only reinforced the scale of the task ahead.

I thought I’d be getting the hang of Brexit by now but find I’m just getting more and more angry at the reckless stupidity of it all. I’ve tried to seek out Leave voters on Twitter who can point me to the upsides of Brexit and drawn a series of blanks. Scientifically, economically, socially, this is just the wrong direction for this country. Last Saturday night I went with my family to to Bridget Christie’s angry, funny Edinburgh show about Brexit and to see her spitting and spluttering with artful incredulity about it all was cathartic – but only for a while. I think I’m going to spend the rest of my life agitating as a Brexit-skeptic. It’ll serve those buggers right. In the meantime, watch this space – there’s more to come. 

Queue fo rBridget ChristieQueue for Bridget Christie on a cold, wet February night

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2 Responses to Status Report – February 2017

  1. Aha, so Imperial has now signed DORA. That’s excellent.
    It will, no doubt, be widely ignored (not only at Imperial) but the fact that it’s been signed is a start and eventually people will follow (I hope). UCL has altered its senior promotions application form to draw attention to the fact that the College has signed DORA -a small start at least.