Can scientists speak freely? Well, apparently not

Here is a recent blog-post from St A colleague and Chief Science Advisor for DEFRA Professor Ian Boyd (DEFRA is the UK’s environment and agriculture governmental department).

Can government scientists speak freely?

The post is the text of a speech given to the Science Media Centre at the end of last month. I’m afraid I find it rather chilling. In particular, I am aghast at the “we must not be naughty schoolboys” tone of the last paragraph, reproduced below.

“Overall, government institutions find a good balance between supporting scientists’ freedom to speak, if they want to, and holding them to account if they break the rules of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality. I am impressed by the way in which government scientists in the UK listen to advice, intelligently assess the risks and the moral arguments and come to their own decisions about how to behave.”

[Shakes head…] Freedom to speak, if we want to…?

Oh dear.

Never happier

A happy Dave, watching flies (Philornis). In George Heimpel’s lab back in August – thanks for the picture George!

If you like watching flies, or other insects, drop me a line about research opportunities.

Aubrey Manning

It is with great sadness that I share the news that our friend and inspiration Aubrey Manning passed away last week. Aubrey was a wonderful, infectiously enthusiastic biologist, who made important contributions to the study of animal behaviour, and to the growth of the animal behaviour community more generally. But he was also so much more than that. It was a great pleasure to spend time with him whilst in Edinburgh (and I also loved Earth Story!). He will be much missed, but I can only remember him with a smile.

There are a number of obituaries and loving posts about him, but I will just steal this picture from Jamie Grant and his article about Aubrey for the Scottish Wildlife Trust a few years back – Aubrey laughing – of course!

New paper

Congratulations to Becky, who has just had her review on convenience polyandry accepted in TREE. The review, based on part of her thesis discussion, considers the fleeting nature of true convenience polyandry, and is co-authored by Marlene Zuk and yours truly. Final details of in-print version to follow.


A brief post to re-affirm my strong opposition to leaving the EU, and to repudiate the ugly – and frankly ridiculous – statements made by various members of the current UK Government about our European friends and allies.

I strongly support the EU, and will continue to do so regardless of the state of the UK’s relationship with EU countries.

Undergraduate and post-graduate students from the EU enrich my research and teaching, and are a valuable part of our academic community. The benefits of their presence, and also of the presence of EU workers in the UK, has been confirmed beyond any doubt, and I will continue to welcome them. To argue that they are damaging our economy is to tell lies.

I am disgusted that our politicians cannot make the case for the contribution of EU – and non-EU – workers to our economy, and to our broader intellectual and social well-being, through contributions to science, arts and so on. Instead, they are appear craven to a media that is xenophobic at best, racist at worst, and a small group of atavistic nationalists that do not reflect our true values as a country.

Please resist BREXIT in any way that you can.