30 May | Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern

Mitochondria, ageing and separate sexes

This seminar was given at the kind invitation of Prof. Dr. Mariusz Nowacki.

I received excellent questions and comments from members of an expert audience. There seemed to be agreement on my view of the experiment we should do next.

It was a pleasure to meet Mariusz’s lab members, including Dr. Estienne Swart and a special host, Dr. Sarah Allen.

I also appreciated the introduction to colleagues. Prof. Dr. André Schneider in particular had fascinating research to report on protein import into mitochondria, with, he believes and I agree, so much to tell us about the origin and evolution of eukaryotes. André thanked me for acknowledging past discussion with Jeff Schatz, whom he knew as his postdoctoral advisor and mentor, and who had provided the first compelling evidence for mitochondrial DNA. In about 1996, in Lund, Sweden, Jeff had recommended not wasting time on Xenopus oocyte mitochondria since they were “really boring; no cytochromes, no ox-phos”. I tried but failed to explain why I thought this was an interesting comment.

André’s comment in Bern was prompted by an acknowledgement slide I’d prepared, and worried about, thanking Jeff and also Lars Ernster for early encouragement. I can’t be sure about Jeff’s view, but Lars definitely liked the mitochondrial theory of ageing, and even showed a summary graphic, Figure 1 from my 1996 Journal of Theoretical Biology paper, in a seminar he later gave in Lund. I recalled apologising to Ernster, an outstanding biochemist and experimentalist, Nobel Chemistry Committee member and spokesman, for proposing “just an hypothesis”.

His reply? – “This is what we do!

IMG_1344

Sarah outside the former home of Bern's most famous resident.
Sarah outside the former home of Bern’s most famous resident.
Two members of the Allen family.  Bern, Switzerland, 30th May 2016.
Two members of the Allen family. Bern, Switzerland, 30th May 2016. Photo taken by Estienne Swart.

The Managerial University: A Failed Experiment? – Demos

Source: The Managerial University: A Failed Experiment? – Demos

By David West, “..an independent researcher living in Canberra. Until 2013, he was Associate Professor of Political Theory at the Australian National University”.

A brilliant account of dark forces exerted on universities, deflecting their goals, activities and governance away from the advancement and dissemination of knowledge.

Related pages here:
What do universities actually do?
Ursula Mittwoch: “Be kind to colleagues”
A comment on academic freedom and the corporate university
A salute to whistleblowers – Peter Cameron’s blog
Use of word in misuse of power
Research assessment and REF
Not extinct
The bucket or the searchlight?
The Devil in the detail – Fanis Missirlis’s blog
CDBU Public Lecture by Thomas Docherty

CDBU Public Lecture by Thomas Docherty

Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick, and Anne Sheppard, Professor of Ancient Philosophy, Royal Holloway, University of London.
Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick, and Anne Sheppard, Professor of Ancient Philosophy, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Thomas Docherty’s lecture on “Academic Freedom and the Social Responsibility of the University Institution” took place on 14 October 2015, at Royal Holloway, University of London. The poster advertised what amounted to a stimulating account of the necessity of academic freedom for any institution that qualifies, in my view, for the name “university”. Thomas also described current attacks on academic freedom, possible motives behind them, and their dire consequences for teaching and research.

I joined the Council for the Defence of British Universities on day one. It seemed, and still seems, to embody pretty well all the values whose implementation make universities essential to the maintenance of a free society. Last year I asked here What do universities actually do?

To my knowledge, those working at “change management” in UK universities have no answer. If we could inspect alternative aims and objectives then it might be possible to understand what exactly those currently on the rise are trying to achieve, thus to engage with them in useful dialogue. Thomas’s thesis, as I understood it, is that the aim of managerialism is precisely to prevent dialogue, and thus to silence dissent. Is there is an ulterior motive to that, or is the whole mess an unintended consequence of control having been acquired in some way by individuals averse to criticism, and hostile to public knowledge and social responsibility?

“Photosynthesis Research for Sustainability – 2015” in honor of Dr. George C. Papageorgiou

An International conference “Photosynthesis Research for Sustainability” held in Colymbari on September 21 – 26 at the Orthodox Academy of Crete.

I thank the organisers, especially Kostas Stamatakis of the National Center of Scientific Research “Demokritos”, Athens, who were most generous hosts. Merope Tsimilli-Michael kindly encouraged me to present new research and general thoughts under the title “Evolution of two light reactions. Cooperation and interdependency in photosynthesis, science, and society”. Allen’s abstract

My presentation touched briefly on the general topic of Merope’s fine lecture “Sustainability of photosynthesis research”. Tsimilli-Michael’s abstract

Merope Tsimilli-Michael
Merope Tsimilli-Michael
Tasios Melis and George Papageorgiou
Tasios Melis and George Papageorgiou
View from the The Orthodox Academy of Crete
View from the The Orthodox Academy of Crete

REF and Volkswagen’s cheating device

When a measure becomes a target then it ceases to be a measure.

From BBC News, 25 September 2015:

 According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some cars being sold in America had devices in diesel engines that could detect when they were being tested, changing the performance accordingly to improve results.

“We’ve totally screwed up,” said VW America boss Michael Horn, while group chief executive Martin Winterkorn said his company had “broken the trust of our customers and the public”.

A tweet:

From this blog, on Research Assessment and REF:
And where changes in rank order are discernible, the question will remain: has anything actually changed? Or do the results reflect differing tactics, and choice of measures as targets?