Monthly Archives: February 2017

It’s all about wordplay

It’s all about wordplay

I quite like a short sentence. And a phrase by itself. Only for stylistic purposes, you understand. Nevertheless, it’s important to vary sentence length, otherwise your reader goes to sleep. I prefer the active voice. And don’t let anyone tell you can never start a sentence with ‘and’ or ’but’. You can, but it’s wise not […] … learn more→

Higher Ed corruption: Golden parachutes

Higher Ed corruption: Golden parachutes

In my decades working in higher education, I’ve noted time and again how administrators seem like they’re trying to get fired. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but their incompetence so often seems deliberate, and I’ve met far too many admin who, first day on the job, are only too happy to explain how their plan is […] … learn more→

Why universities and academics should bother with public engagement

Why universities and academics should bother with public engagement

Universities and their academic members benefit from significant sums of money from the UK taxpayer. It seems only right then, that academics should engage the public in what they do. It’s fair to say though that this hasn’t always been the main priority for researchers, which has led to the idea for some that public […] … learn more→

Time crystals: how scientists created a new state of matter

Time crystals: how scientists created a new state of matter

Some of the most profound predictions in theoretical physics, such as Einstein’s gravitational waves or Higgs’ boson, have taken decades to prove with experiments. But every now and then, a prediction can become established fact in an astonishingly short time. This is what happened with “time crystals”, a new and strange state of matter that […] … learn more→

“On lies and the truths we must tell”

“On lies and the truths we must tell”

A growing number of college and university presidents have spoken out against the Trump administration’s efforts to ban and deport immigrants and refugees.  Some leading research universities have filed an amicus brief in support of the legal challenge to the initial ban.  But a mere handful have been as outspoken about the broader implications of […] … learn more→

Using diagrams as research aids

Using diagrams as research aids

I hate doing literature reviews. I always feel I have not read enough. I worry that what I write will be ‘wrong’ because I have missed some vital piece of literature. These feelings never seem to entirely go away, even though I have been publishing papers for over a decade. I can certainly relate to […] … learn more→

Overpraise is everywhere, and universities are not immune

Overpraise is everywhere, and universities are not immune

There is now a strange but real acceptance of overpraise and hype as normal features of behaviour. They have become a pervasive constant, and look like they are here to stay. First encountered and internalised by small children at nursery or infant school – and reinforced at home by misguided parents who think (correctly) that […] … learn more→

Big and open data are prompting a reform of scientific governance

Big and open data are prompting a reform of scientific governance

Big data are widely seen as a game-changer in scientific research, promising new and efficient ways to produce knowledge. And yet, large and diverse data collections are nothing new – they have long existed in fields such as meteorology, astronomy and natural history. What, then, is all the fuss about? In my recent book I argue […] … learn more→

A two week book chapter – a.k.a. down the writing burrow

A two week book chapter – a.k.a. down the writing burrow

  I’ve just written a book chapter in two weeks. This is a long time for me, and it was hard work. I’m usually someone who plans their writing quite carefully. I begin with an abstract and then flesh it out by adding bullet points. I don’t do pomodoros, or any other form of speed writing. […] … learn more→

‘Father of eugenics’ should not be erased from academic history

‘Father of eugenics’ should not be erased from academic history

Those statues and portraits that embellish our high seats of learning – enjoy them while you can. As Sir Francis Galton, one of the greatest polymaths in British history, is recast by some University College Londonactivists as the inventor of racism, we must ask: is any famous figure safe from the campus commissars of moral […] … learn more→