Settling in

Sorry, another “place-holder” post, end of teaching semester and pre-Xmas “Help I still haven’t done XYZ!” kind of thing, all a bit frantic, hopefully some new content coming….

I’ve just penned an official sign-off post at Nature Network to indicate to any remaining readers there (both of them?) that I have relocated. So I will leave this as mostly an Open Thread for anyone who wants to comment on the re-location (keep it clean).

It has been an interesting experience blogging at NN. When I set up there almost exactly a year ago I was already a fairly experienced online ranter, having been blogging for a couple of years (and commenting round the blogosphere for a couple more) as part of the UK “bad science” community. I started the NN blog as an outlet for my more respectable (non-ranting) material, though it probably didn’t actually work out that way.

In particular, when I started at NN I had thought to use the blog to re-publish the kind of respectable stuff I write as editorials and historical pieces for the Physiological Society’s magazine Physiology News – which does not, as yet, have online comments threads. However, those pieces took quite a lot of re-writing to “re-direct” them from a solely physiology audience to the general science / cell mol biol readership at NN. As a result I never did as many of them as I was  hoping, and Not Ranting tended instead to switch back to my regular preoccupations of pseudoscience, science in the news for various reasons, and annoyances (though history still got a decent representation).

Now, I am one of those weird people who actually read comments threads. Indeed, I like comments threads, and lurking in them and discussing on them, much more than I actually like writing blogposts. So one definite reason for re-locating here was to have a less restrictive comments policy than at NN (specifically,  not requiring registration),  and thereby hopefully to generate a bit  more discussion.

The other reason was to try and widen the readership a little beyond the very scientific-focussed one at NN.  This was probably less of an issue for me than the comments, as my other blogging is already directed at a more general readership. Indeed, one of the reasons so many scientists blog about pseudoscience is that it connects with a lot of non-science people, simply by virtue of it being something they have often been exposed to in their daily life.

Anyway, I live in hope of new readers, and new commenters. And to close out with, in case there are any browsing and they would like to know a bit more about what to expect here, I thought I would post up a few links to my back-catalogue, highlighting the kind of areas likely to recur here.

As I already posted, the three main topics here seem likely to be science in the news/or science policy, scientific history, and pseudoscience. So I will indicate some favourites from last year under each.

First, some history pieces: the first and third one are derived from articles in Physiology News, while the middle one is a tribute to my father’s scientific mentor, Professor Jean Hanson.

Charles Darwin, the physiologists and the physiological society – from the 1870s to the present

Pioneer of muscle contraction (Jean Hanson)

A hundred years ago – the Hill Equation (on AV Hill)

On science policy, I would probably pick my piece on why concentrating funding on a few high-flying labs – the preferred solution of most agencies to the UK science funding squeeze – is not really a solution:

Funding the elite is not the real problem – a response to Sir Paul Nurse

– and I was also pleased with:

The grass may be green somewhere, but the blue skies here look pretty dark

– which dealt with the ever-vexed idea of whether you can predict which scientific discoveries are ultimately going to turn out to be important.

And finally, on my most regular theme of pseudoscience, there is my Summer adventure with the anti-vaccine gang, in which I was accused of being an “official front blogger”, or something, for “the magazine” Nature – which seems especially ironic about now!

Just when I thought I was out… (Part 1)

It’s a conspiracy – and you’re ALL in on it! (Part 2)

About Austin

Middle-aged grouchy white male. Hair greying but hasn't all fallen out yet. Spreading waistline ill-concealed by baggy jumper.Semi-extinguished physiology researcher turned teacher. Known for never shutting up. Father of two children (aged 6 and 2) who try to out-talk him. Some would call that Karmic Revenge.
This entry was posted in History, Pseudoscience, Science policy. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Settling in

  1. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    You were only at NN for a year? It felt like longer (in the good way! Like, the “part of the furniture” way!). You must have been commenting there for a while first!

  2. ricardipus says:

    HA! Nice summary of the past life at NN, Austin. And I rather enjoyed your OT bio-blurb as well. 🙂

  3. Austin says:


    You’re right, I’d been an on-off commenter at NN since Sept 2008, straight after the Solo08 meeting. Just didn’t bother having a blog then as I already had the bad sci one. And I never think of that as being at NN “long term”, as I’d been around the bad sci blogosphere since I started as a commenter on Ben Goldacre’s blog c. mid-2006. (along with Stephen and Bob O’Hara, actually).

    Incidentally, one of my first NN experiences as a commenter was being magisterially dismissed by Henry, as you can see here. Surprised I ever came back!

    I did feel a bit of an outsider at NN at first, mainly to do with coming from another existing biog community and finding NN already had kind of established groups and alliances. That’s partly why I found it so funny when other people (like Sb or the anti-vaccine loons) would say things like “the Nature (Network) people”, as if it was one homogeneous group.

    @ Richard

    Why thank you. And every word the gospel. Especially the bio..!

  4. chall says:

    How fun to see what happens here. I agree with Cath though, did think you’d been at NN longer but I guess since you comment then your name appears there and so on… Bad sci is always good to talk about. And maybe there will be something posted about that “we don’t need any scientists in the govermental suggestion board” in the future?

    btw, I find your bottom description hilarious. They talk a lot? 😉 (sort of reminds me about my father and I… he can talk a stone to tears…… )

  5. Austin says:


    Thanks for commenting. Always good to see new faces/sign-ins.

    Re that Govt / scientists thing, wasn’t quite sure what specifically you meant. That is probably because, the way the British Govt feels about scientific advice, it could apply to several different examples. Do you have a link?

    On the other thing about the kids trying to out-talk me.. well, that’s absolutely true, especially our 6 yr old. Mrs Austin (henceforth to be referred to on here as “The Boss”) comes from a pretty taciturn family, so she perhaps understandably blames the incessant verbal static around the house on me. And it does run in my family, I guess, as both my mum and dad like to talk. Though the tendency is so pronounced in me that in family-speak it is sometimes referred to as Austin’s “Irritable Vowel Syndrome”.

    Re. the pseudoscience, I will try and keep the stuff on that a bit rationed around here, since you can find a ton of it elsewhere. But as before, it will no doubt creep in from time to time.

  6. chall says:

    Austin> I was referring to the idea of not needing to have scientists on the Drug Advisory Council. Links I found while googling were in the Guardian and Independent….. ^^

  7. cromercrox says:

    Harumph. If I sit on people by accident I make it a rule that I always offer to pay for the funeral.

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