Getting off to a good start

At the start line

If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!  I can hardly believe the start of the new academic year is already well underway. The noise as new voices fill the corridors and the canteens, the sense of excitement, the vague looks on faces as people try to find their way around a new place… If you are a new starter – whether you that means new to this role or new to […]

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Using your brain

Cartoon of cogs working in a brain

One of the additional delights of a greater understanding of neuroscience is the evidence it provides to support folk wisdom. Hebb’s law, simply put, explains that “cells that fire together wire together”. In a simplistic way this explains that the sequence of cells, neurons and synapses, in any given neural pathway, work cooperatively. The more often they are used in sequence the more likely they are to work together and the threshold for “firing” gets lower the more they are used […]

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A 50+ hour work week?

Pulling together

Fact: many researchers and academics work long hours. It’s the type of career that you choose because you love it. Work-life balance usually means something different to researchers than to many people. Most researchers will tell you that they love the work so much that it often doesn’t feel like work. I know I always felt really privileged that I got paid to do stuff that I was amazingly interested in, each and every day. But, (and you knew the but was coming […]

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The value of feedback and evaluation


As an educator or a trainer the end of every module or workshop is accompanied by a course evaluation exercise. The aim is to make sure that standards of teaching are high, that needs of students are met, that money is being spent wisely… Yet I’ve often wondered whether the information in feedback forms is really relevant. A recent publication reveals how inaccurate some feedback can be… Some very obviously false statements were included within a standard evaluation form and […]

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PWC Women In Work Index

Mouse short-cutting the maze

PWC have published their most recent report: the Women in Work Index. The UK could boost it’s GDP by 9% if we had the same proportion of women in work as in Sweden. When it comes to the number of women in full time employment, the UK ranks 30th out of 33… That we have so few women in full time employment might mean that we have a lot of loving mums who can’t bear to leave their children and who […]

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Quotas or all women short lists? In Academia?!

The disparity in the numbers of male and female professors in UK universities should be an embarrassment to any institution which values fairness. We have talked about equality of opportunity for so long with respect to our intake of students yet barriers to the equal participation of women at more senior levels of management seem to be unaddressed or stubbornly resistant to the few strategies employed. I’ve never heard the suggestion of quotas for women or all-female short lists for […]

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Procrastination busted open!

traffic-light-Red and Green

I’ve read lots about procrastination – it’s a great way to avoid getting stuff done! In truth, I’m not a great procrastinator but I have worked with many people, friends, colleagues and clients who are deeply affected by putting things off. Procrastination seems to defy all logic. Most people affected know it doesn’t help them though they seem powerless to change things. So far as I can see there are many reasons why people engage, apparently unwillingly, in this activity […]

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PhDs – fit for purpose?

 Are you a scientist? Have you done a PhD in a science or science related area? If so, do you feel that your PhD prepared you for your life and work in the months and years that followed that training period? In many of my encounters with younger, early career researchers in the sciences, there’s an underlying discontent. It comes in many forms but a common theme is, “I never expected it to be like this”. People did their PhDs. They knew […]

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What’s in a name?


“The prime minister will announce on Monday that a series of leading employers in the public and private sectors have agreed to recruit candidates on a name blind basis (including the BBC, the NHS, the civil service outside the highest ranks, KPMG and HSBC). Deloitte will say that it is going a step further and blanking out the name of a candidate’s school and university during the interview process.” The Guardian 26.10.15 What is so dangerous in knowing the name of a […]

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Of course men make better leaders???

Woman climbing over fence

Discussing career development, advancement and progression I recently heard the sadly familiar opinion “It’s not surprising there are fewer women at the top, women just don’t make such successful leaders.”. My heart sank. How long does it take for facts to overtake stereotypical but outdated bias? We see men in positions of leadership so we assume men make better leaders – despite evidence to the contrary. A woman may have a different leadership style to a man though it is at least […]

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