Seeing the world as Ukraine

Humans have a profound ability to see something as something else. This enables us to create metaphors, mind and, in my view, consciousness. As the psychologist and philosopher of science Rom Harré once said: “You need an ‘as if’ to look at the world; you need an ‘as if’ to explain the world.” (p.c.) When …

Pandemics, time and learning

I was reading a thought-provoking article by Katherine J. Wu, Ed Yong and Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic, entitled “Omicron is our Past Pandemic Mistakes on Fast-Forward”. As a metaphor-collector, I loved the first paragraph – which was all about speed: “With Omicron, everything is sped up. The new variant is spreading fast and far. …

Science, politics and integrity

On 12 October three things appeared in my Twitter timeline: a report, an academic paper and an interview, all dealing with science and politics in the context of the management of the coronavirus pandemic. Most importantly, there was the House of Commons report which showed for all to see what a shambles the UK government’s …

Post-Brexit gene editing regulation

Some of us are old enough to remember the controversies surrounding genetically modified or engineered foods and crops that raged in Europe (which included the UK) around the turn of the millennium. Some of us are even old enough to remember debates about recombinant DNA in the seventies (for those who don’t, I recommend Matthew …

Loaded language

A lot has been written about the dangers of war metaphors used by politicians during the pandemic. But war metaphors are of course everywhere in political speech, where people fight elections, defeat opponents, battle against the odds. It is almost impossible to think about politics without thinking of it as a battle to be won. …

Mutant algorithms

I was talking to a friend in the United States. She told me the story of a friend who normally just talks about motherhood and apple pie, but suddenly wondered about algorithms. So, my friend asked me how I would explain algorithms. That reminded me of discussions I had a year or so ago with …

Making science public: Our edited collection

As our Making Making Science Public programme has come to an end, it’s time to take stock across all projects and beyond. This is exactly what we have done in an (open access) book coming out with Manchester University Press in January, entitled Science and the Politics of Openness: Here be monsters. The chapters in …

Signs and society: The Brexit bus

Some years ago, Roda Madziva, a former research fellow on the Making Science Public programme, wrote a blog post about the ‘Go Home Van’. This van combined visibility and mobility to tell migrants in London, framed as illegal criminals, to go home – wherever that might (im)possibly be. Roda and Vivienne Lowndes have also written an …

An iconography of truth

With all the talk about post-truth and post-facts swirling around me, I thought I had to write something about all this, about how utterly important it is to stand up for facts, truth, evidence, expertise, sincerity, honesty, dignity, integrity, fairness, justice…., however hard that might be in the political, economic, social, cultural, intellectual and academic …