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”

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…”

This weekend has seen over 100 osteology nerds descend onto the unsuspecting city of Liverpool for the 3-day British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology 2017 conference! BABAO runs an annual conference in September which roams around the country, settling at host universities too slow to take a step back when volunteers are asked for. This year it was Liverpool John Moores‘ turn. No bad thing, as Liverpool is a lively, fun city to visit and steeped in history. I guess, though, that this is…Continue Reading “I couldn’t think of a clever title for this post, so my son suggested “Bits and Bones” and actually that’s pretty spot on…”

It seems a little churlish to criticise a programme for how realistic it’s dragons are, and yet here we are… First of all let me say that I love Game of Thrones. It’s dramatic, exciting and funny and the whole production is so good that I’ve even forgiven them for the under-use of the Sand Snakes. It also has something to offer those of us who are interested in teaching. I’ve used it as a basis for some of my Forensic Medicine lectures to explore…Continue Reading “Mother of Dragons vs Father of Pedants…”

A couple of weeks ago, the University ran it’s annual conference on Learning & Teaching Enhancement. It’s a great event, where staff and students can showcase some of the great work and innovations that they’ve been implementing during the year. This year, for the first time, the organisers had arranged for a few ‘Provocation’ sessions on a range of L&T subjects. Including one on the linkages between research and teaching. Now, I’m not one to shy away from being provocative and like to shake the…Continue Reading “Finding the line between controversy and getting fired…”

The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences has been working hard in recent years to improve the standing of forensic science research. A few months ago they ran a free day event for early career researchers on getting published, they have been working to support a coordinated approach to undergraduate research projects, and continue to support their peer-reviewed academic journal, Science & Justice.  One of the other things the Council has been trying to do, for a number of years actually, is get forensic sciences recognised…Continue Reading “Forensic Science and the forthcoming REF”

Working with my excellent ex-PhD student, Dr Sarah Ellingham (who, I’m proud and delighted to say, now works for the ICRC), we’ve put out a paper which presents a quick and affordable way of determining whether bone has been burned by using an SEM. One of the problems with the march of science, is that said science can be expensive to do, and therefore limits the countries and contexts in which is can be used. This is something that I’ve discussed before as a limiting…Continue Reading “It’s all SEM-antics, really…”