Photo: Squirrel in the Bergdorf Goodman Shoes window; © Katie Hinde, by permission.
Today is Scientist Sees Squirrel’s fourth birthday. When I pounded out my first post, I had no real concept of what I was doing. I’m a little surprised and a little bemused that after four years, I’m still pounding out posts. (It remains true that I have no real concept of what I’m doing, but at least I’ve established that I enjoy doing it.) Along the way, I appear to have written over 300 posts – and nobody can be more surprised by that than I am.
Occasions like this sometimes get celebrated with greatest-hits lists, but that would be boring. It’s tempting to do a greatest-duds list instead (starting with this one), but why would I inflict that on you? So, for some middle ground: five posts that I think were actually pretty good – but that you probably didn’t read, because almost nobody did. I’ve written about my most undercited paper; I guess these are some of my most underread blog posts. Perhaps you’ll enjoy making the acquaintance of a piece you missed the first time around.
- Creativity, play, and science (2015) – In this post, I suggest that the usual narrative of science – hypothesis first, then design an experiment to test it – isn’t always the way things work. Not an original point, I know; but I think I have a pretty good example from my own work to illustrate it. As something of an ironic bonus (and I’d forgotten this until I’d picked this post to head my list) the experiment it describes led, eventually, to my most undercited paper!
- Where the earth shows its bones (2015) – A meditation on time and change (including climate change), inspired by the Icelandic landscape. One of the fun things about blogging is the ability to experiment a bit with style, in a way you really can’t in a scientific paper. I did that here, a little more than usual, and I’ll forgive you if you think it’s too much; but I can almost guarantee you’ll enjoy the photos.
- The globalization and provincialization of universities (2016) – Because the university is my professional home (and because I’ve been involved in administration), I’ve thought a fair bit about how universities are structured and how they work. In this piece I take up what I think is an interesting point: the tension between the desire of governments to have the university serve local priorities, and what I think is an implicit bargain we’ve made to have all universities serve global ones. I don’t know whether I’m right, but I wish we discussed this more often and more openly.
- Thoughts from a room on the 13th floor (2017) – Sometimes, when I write a post, I think I’m making a big important point. Sometimes, I’m just having fun. In this post, I wasn’t sure which I was doing. I’m still not. What do you think?
- Canada’s 150th, and how should we think about incomplete progress? (2017) – This is one of the times I think I was making a big important point, albeit with considerable trepidation. The community and practice of science are each far from perfect; but both are much better than they once were. How do we acknowledge the latter without abandoning our recognition of the former? I think this matters, and it requires nuance that’s often lost.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the first four years of Scientist Sees Squirrel, and I hope to see you back here in its fifth year. Here goes!
© Stephen Heard January 3, 2019