Remove the basic from the basic/applied research cycle and all you have is a shit on a stick



It feels like the death knell of basic research.

Certainly in Science and Social Science.

If you’re in either of these disciplines have you tried recently to get funding for a PhD studentship for basic research?

ESRC have been known to bounce grant applications because “they don’t fund basic research any more”. And that was the office staff! The dreaded Impact Statement is screwing everyone.

So, you’d think University Studentships would fill the gap?

Wrong! Wrong! The money’s gone! Gone  to the Business School, gone on a proposed patent, gone to business and industry involvement, gone to social policy advisement with the government, gone to “user involvement”.

I tell you, on your own heads be it, Universities. In ten years, when you need basic researchers to run your labs and train students in basic skills because business and industry need graduates with these basic skills there won’t be any academics with the expertise. We’ll be a country of applied researchers and the knowledge base will have atrophied.

The problem is that Universities are so parochial. They don’t realise that really good applied research doesn’t materialise out of nowhere. It comes from basic research. You need the basic research to identify the parameters first before applied research can take it on and field test it. Otherwise, it’s a sheep dog out in the field with torch looking for it’s flock in the dark.


How the USS are going to piss on all off us for generations to come

I was absolutely delighted a couple of weeks ago to see the proposals for changes to the USS pension scheme. As a mid-rank lecturer, apparently, I can look forward to having my pension pot halved, and living on exactly the same amount as I did in my first post 12 years ago.

After 45 years of blood, sweat and tears, I’m only worth 21k a year pension. Seriously. Postdocs these days are getting at least 8k more than that in their first post. It is an insult.

Not that anyone coming into the scheme in the last few years is any better off.

We’re paying for all those superstars brought in at the last minute on huge salaries and bonuses for REF2014, and god knows who else. They’ll be fine on their 40k+ pension (MY pension!).

And this is why it is such an issue. I won’t have paid my mortgage off by the time I retire. I couldn’t afford to get a mortgage until recently after saving up a big deposit for 10 years. The next generation of PhD students coming into academia probably won’t have mortgages until well into their 40s, so they’ll have even more to pay off after retirement. So, none of us will end up retiring because we won’t want to have to sell our houses to move to one bedroom bungalows. In turn, there will be no jobs for the next generation of new academics.

Screw one generation on their pension and it will carry on feeding on down the line. Is it not enough that students get screwed on tuition fees, less studentships for basic research, less lectureships available, an even more cut throat publish or perish mentality, professors swinging in to stamp their name on junior staff’s grants and claim all the credit when all they did was add an electronic signature?

Piss on me, Piss on you.

It’s ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!

There comes a point when work just HAS to take a back seat. Such as when dead grant applications grow legs and crawl out from under the chaos that is the mess of the home office. Now, bearing in mind that I believe that the floor is legitimate stacking space, there does come a point when the % of walking space is less than everything stacked on the floor. And I was starting to feel like my mind was being reflected back at me in the chaos of my living room floor. So, rather than putting in a full days work today, I took a couple of hours off to tidy up at home.

And, my god, I have a DESK. I had been wondering this past month what those legs where sticking out from underneath the piles of papers. I guess that’s what my phone, PC and stacks and stacks of memos have been sat on all this time. And, I apparently have 3 laptops [all with cases], a tablet, 5 “experiment notebooks” [To Boss: All Half Full, can’t comment on quality, but given that we’re already under the kosh of REF2020, it’s quantity that matters], three lava lamps, four pairs of crocs from Lidls, and 20 stats books that all say exactly the same thing. Those are, however, to be expected in the academic’s home office. What was a surprise was the hoover…..


The Fourth Way

Given that psychiatrists have a medical degree you would be forgiven for thinking that they should be relatively smart.

However, I received an email from Psychiatric Times with this intriguing dilemna which suggests that they are either incredibly stupid or know something that the rest of us are too dumb to know:

Compared with healthy controls, the prevalence of EEG abnormalities in psychiatric patients is
A.  Significantly higher
B.  About the same
C.  Significantly lower
D.  None of the above


It’s (D) that I’m having a hard time getting around. I know New Labour claimed to be the third way, but has PT found a fourth?