Latest posts


One or two of you might have read By The Sea, my Gothick Bodice Ripper with Detectives, which was originally serialized by my Occam’s Typewriter Compadre Jenny Rohn on her LabLit website, but now published in book form and available on all good e-book platforms, and even as a paperback. One of the readers was my friend Mr J. W.-V., a fellow Norfolk resident, musician and newsroom journalist. Continue reading

Posted in adapted screenplay, by the sea, Jenny Rohn, Lablit, tolkien, Writing & Reading | Leave a comment

Today’s Curiosity is Tomorrow’s Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research


I am very excited to finally have my most recent book, “Today’s Curiosity is Tomorrow’s Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research” in press and now available for preorder. 

For a very long time I have been concerned that there is decreasing appreciation (and hence investment) for very basic, curiosity-driven research, with many political leaders and the public (and even Continue reading

Posted in basic research, book, CRC, curiosity-driven research, disease-related research, education, Francis & Taylor, great discoveries, History of Science, Research, Routledge, science, Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research, translational science | Leave a comment


I really can’t believe it.

I’ve been writing books for thirty years, but have never seen the anticipation that’s buzzing around my fifthforthcoming tome, A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth.

When a book of mine is published, it’s usual for me to receive translation offers in one or two languages, but only after it’s been out for some time. This time, it’s ra Continue reading

Posted in a very short history of life on earth, David Attenborough, flabbey road, Korg Nautilus, Life on Earth, Music, Picador, St Martins Press, Writing & Reading | Leave a comment

In which summers shrink

Academics talk nostalgically about rosy-tinted times of yore when summers meant a lull in lecturing duties.

The months would unfold before you, a vast landscape of research possibilities. It was a time to write papers, craft grants, catch up with the technical literature, come up with new hypotheses, spend more time chatting with your team. It was a time to dream big, and then work out how to m Continue reading

Posted in academia, careers, Nostalgia, Research, students, Teaching, The ageing process, The profession of science | Leave a comment

Picture a Scientist – Who Do You See?

I am often asked who inspired me. I feel embarrassed to admit the answer is no one, it seems like the wrong answer. Certainly there was no female scientist who triggered my love of science at an early age; I was far more inspired by my reading matter. In this category I would single out The New Science of Strong Materials by JE Gordon, I’ve written about the significance of this book at length bef Continue reading

Posted in discrimination, Equality, harassment, Jane Willenbring, MIT, Nancy Hopkins, Raychelle Burks, Women in science | Leave a comment

The Imperative of Skills

Whereas academic scientists too often only think in terms of producing the next generation of academic scientists like them, the reality is many would-be PIs would be lost without the technicians who keep the equipment running, train newcomers and generally make sure the lab is in a fit condition for work. They aren’t always visible, but they are crucial in many areas. Last week an article appeare Continue reading

Posted in BEIS, careers, Chatteris, education, Further Education, technicians, training | Comments Off on The Imperative of Skills


Here’s a story about Pride, and the best party I ever attended.

It started in 2017, when the Gees had a wonderful family holiday in Northumbria. The fact that I could never seem to find Hadrian’s Wall, no matter how manically I drove along country lanes trying to find it, became a family joke. I had somehow expected some imposing structure like the Great Wall of China when, in fact, mu Continue reading

Posted in Apparitions, Apsperg-O-Meter, camp, dirtyfilthysexy, Hadrian's Wall, LGBTQ+, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you'll always find me in the kitchen at parties | Comments Off on Pride

Page charges and OA policies

Much of my time in the past 12 months has been committed to preparing for compliance with the Coalition S / Wellcome open access policies. Because we have core funding from Wellcome this means that all research papers submitted on or after 1 Jan 2021 must comply with their new OA policy.

So I have been buried in transformative deals, transformative journals and the Rights Retention Strategy, tryin Continue reading

Posted in Open Access | Comments Off on Page charges and OA policies

Getting the Design Right

This blogpost is stimulated by two bits of reading matter of very different sorts, but between them they have taken my thoughts in somewhat multifarious directions. Apologies if the net result is a slightly disorganised and diverse post.

It started with an article in the Guardian about architecture, and how a group of women in the 1980s got fed up with the idea – originating with modernist Le Corb Continue reading

Posted in architecture, Cavendish, design, Equality, maintenance, Science Funding | Comments Off on Getting the Design Right

A wonderful life


Last week, the family and I were devastated to have to say goodbye to our 12 year old rescue dog, Ginger. All dogs are wonderful, perhaps, but Ginger was WONDERFUL and EXCEPTIONAL in so many ways. Sure, she was intelligent and fun-loving and affectionate, but she was the dog-of-my-life, the kindest, sweetest, noblest and most loving of creatures, who never once exhibited the slightest aggression, Continue reading

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Cromer is going wild!

This notice from my daily constitutional shows that a small corner of a park, wedged between a childrens’ playground and the bowls club, is being allowed to let its hair down.

I suspect that this will lead to a bit of moaning, as the first stages of rewilding are rather scruffy, consisting of infestations of triffids stinging nettles and brambles, before the ground sett Continue reading

Posted in Beeching, Blog Norfolk!, Cromer, forests, Lutyens, Overstrand, rewilding, woodland | Comments Off on Wild!

Levelling up for Whom?

A recent HEPI report, written by Sarah Chaytor, Grace Gottlieb and Graeme Reid, all from UCL, considered aspects of levelling up and regional policy. Amongst their conclusions was that, despite what other commentators have said, the UK is not particularly regionally concentrated in its research funding, and that what is meant by research concentration isn’t even particularly well-defined. Despite Continue reading

Posted in Cambridge, East of England, Graene Reid, Science Funding, The Missing Four Billion | Comments Off on Levelling up for Whom?

To be or not to be exceptional?

I can’t remember how I came across this video from philosopher Alain de Botton, but I feel seen.

Like many academics, I guess, I have always prized scholarly achievement. And of course, within our systems of research assessment, we are forever talking about notions of excellence and exceptionalism, spurred on by the relentless competition for jobs, grants, and admission to the ‘top Continue reading

Posted in Scientific Life | Comments Off on To be or not to be exceptional?

Do you know Excellence when you see it?

Politicians toss around phrases like ‘levelling up’ and ‘build back better’, not to mention ‘freedom of speech’, with gay abandon. Such words sound so positive and authoritative, what could be the problem? As many people have pointed out, however, there tend to be internal inconsistencies, exemplified by the University Minister Michelle Donelan’s statements about holocaust deniers being acceptable Continue reading

Posted in bias, careers, ERC, grant-giving panels, Matthew effect, REF, Research, Science Funding | Comments Off on Do you know Excellence when you see it?

How Best to Tackle Bullying?

How can we make the university sector a more pleasant place to work? Bullying and harassment (whether of a sexual nature or not) are, it would appear, endemic across the higher education sector, for staff and students alike. Every survey highlights the issue as a major problem, deterring many from continuing in the path they had set their heart on and perhaps expended many years of effort in an at Continue reading

Posted in Bystander, culture change, Science Culture, toxic culture change, wellcome, Women in science | Comments Off on How Best to Tackle Bullying?