Criticism forms one of the pillars of academia. It’s constant and everywhere, and goes hand-in-hand with rejection – papers booted out, grant applications chucked in funders’ bins, mocking of your promotion application… In theory this criticism should be part of a process of improvement and enhancement. The idea is that peer-review in whatever form it takes, acts simultaneously as a gatekeeper to quality in the discipline, and also as a vehicle for improvement. Of course that only works if the criticism is constructive. It’s like…Continue Reading “Everyone’s a critic…”

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the recent Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, but it’s very watchable. It’s got a great cast, it looks suitably opulent and has some nice lines in it. I’ve seen it twice now – once on my flight to Seattle for the AAFS in Feb, and then again this month at home. The nice thing about doing this is that you get to appreciate the film first as if in the dark,…Continue Reading “My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world…”

I was talking to my wife recently about the ‘Facebook-effect’ of being an academic – whereby people only see the positive things of the work, which results in a sense that everyone else is doing much better than you and that its so much easier for them. For me, I don’t like to go on about how hard it is to do the job well and get a decent work-life balance, because, being terribly British about it, I assume that no-one wants to hear me…Continue Reading “Publication bias”

To my shame, I knew very little about the history of Cyprus before I went there earlier this month. I knew our military went there, and that British youth head there for debauched holidays, but that’s about it. When we got to Cyprus, and after my eyes had adjusted to that unusual bright thing in the sky in January, the first thing that surprised me was how British the place was. Three-pronged plugs, roundabouts, pelican crossings. Naturally our first thought was “Ahh, this is another…Continue Reading “Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus”

One thing that you learn from talking to your children is that oftentimes you’re not nearly as interesting as you think you are… What can I do but take these painfully learnt lessons and apply them in the classroom? So in recognition of how boring I can be and to break things up a bit, I like to bring in TV and films to help contextualise or liven up what I’m talking about. I’ve used clips from the greatest TV show ever made (Total Wipeout…Continue Reading “It’s important to me that you know that Han shot first…”

Now, the problem with being an utter delight, is that people want to talk to you. Like, all the time. In every possible situation. The pressures of being such a joy to be around are great.   Like most people I commute to work. But I don’t drive in, I take the train. I much prefer the train to the car – it’s easier, cheaper and as an anthropologist it gives me considerable opportunity to people-watch. Also, the train is a microcosm of human society…Continue Reading “Planes, trains and automobiles…”

This month saw our PhD student and resident lover-of-puns, Sam Griffiths take his viva. Readers of our old blog will remember that Sam has spent a number of years investigating the effect of submersion of bone in water. It was a complex piece of research which sought to bring together a range of analytical methods. He did experimental work, field work, scanning, all sorts. Wonderfully, he aced his viva, and is now Dr Sam Griffiths! Sam was based primarily at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton,…Continue Reading “Sibling Rivalry…”

Well, there we go then. #endofanera as I imagine the kids are saying… After three years in the hot seat, I’ve finished my stint as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Science & Justice. When I put my name forward to take over back in 2014, I did so partly because I wanted to see if I was up to the challenge, but mainly because Science & Justice has always been one of my favourite journals. Focused primarily on Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences members, it was…Continue Reading “The King is dead. Long live the King!”

Last night, I was thinking a lot about giving lectures. This is not unusual, but this time it wasn’t the content that interested me, but the mechanics of lecturing. Three things happened over the past two days which brought this to the forefront of my mind. First, I’d come back from a fantastic 2-day leadership development residential; second, I’d just given four hours straight teaching, and; third, I’d just watched Jerry before Seinfeld. The leadership workshop was great. Run by the Leadership Foundation for HE…Continue Reading “Comic Timing…”

It’s been very quiet on campus recently (a little too quiet…), but that was all shattered last week as our new students arrived at Teesside. That’s right, last week was Welcome Week!  It also marked the first Welcome Week where I’ve been actively involved in crafting the week (well, I say ‘actively’ – it’s largely been our fantastic School Registrar Michelle Dickson and her team who have pulled together a workable week…). For me, this week is all about setting the tone for study and…Continue Reading “Every new journey starts with a single step…”