normal service will be resumed shortly…

Test Card FThat last blog post from over a year ago was a classic false start – it’s been a hard year for both personal and non-personal reasons (and the referendum decision by the British public to leave the European Union still weighs heavily – sigh), but the start of the academic year and some nice work in progress/review has spurred me back into action. There are a number of posts in progress at the moment, not least one looking at the recent paper by McDonald et al. in Science Advances that I am very pleased to have been involved with. More over the next few days…

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more soon…

I’m currently on leave until mid-July, and have been taking extended paternity leave since January to look after a little person. It’s both great fun and very hard work, and I currently don’t intend to devote any time to these pages until I get back. However, there is a back-log of half-finished blog posts that need polishing, and that will hopefully start trickling out once I am back to work and have handled all the administrative tasks that wait for me. You have been warned!

Mission statement

I’ve been thinking of opening up a blog for a few years now, but have constantly been held back due to a fairly standard professional uneasiness with the prospect of opening up candid and uncensored opinions to the general reader.  We (at least, the scientific community that I most often interact with, who may now howl back in denial) like to have our ideas poked, prodded and checked over multiple times before we unleash them on the world.

However, having been playing on the web since some time around Mosaic 1.0, and being a ‘passive user’ of usergroups, blogs, and countless other social content, it does feel strange not to have anything other than a static presence in a few poorly designed personal pages in a dusty corner of an academic server. What we often forget is that it’s fun to talk about the things that we’re passionate about.  We all have our own world views, so why not take the opportunity to unleash our own skewed take on what’s important, or interesting, or just plain strange? Social media gives us the opportunity to do just this. In a recent issue of Ideas in Ecology and Evolution, Bertram and Katti give some very succinct arguments for why the social media is important for scientists, both as a work tool and as a means of communication. If you’re a ‘passive user’, like I have been, read the article, then decide how to progress.

So, expect irregular postings about random things, all lumped together under the common theme of ‘interaction biology’. I realise this vague phrase could be seen as being close to ‘systems biology’ in its overarching vagueness, but I promise I have a very clear idea of what it means to me (honest!). As well as blatant self-advertisement of my group and my colleagues, I’ll be looking at papers and trends that are catching my eye, talking about (well-formed) ideas as they progress, become over-enthusiastic at conferences, and even, just very occasionally, rant against the system. I hope to get my students and colleagues to contribute as well (Sarah Giles, currently in the third year of her PhD, has already dipped her toes into the blogosphere during her recent three month policy internship at the Royal Society). There may even be some dancing weasels, if you’re good!

Further reading

Bertram SM & Katti M (2013). The social biology professor: effective strategies for social media engagement. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 6: 22-31. doi:10.4033/iee.2013.6.5.f