Sustainable Development, why is it such a commonly used term?

Sustianable Development is a phrase that gets thrown around like it’s room spray. And there are some who would say that it’s just as emphemeral and does the same job. So why is it so popular? Well, there are three factors that contribute to its use: that it doesn’t have a legal definition, that it involves lots of groups who otherwise might not get a say and that you can use it in almost any context since it has multiple definitions. Sustainable Development’s greatest strength, and weakness, is that no-one can seriously make a case for unsustainable development (Kirkby et al, 1995).

Telling stories, or ‘what is story in academic writing?’

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What is ‘story’ in academia and how can we create a great story? This is the question I’ve been talking about in a post about academic story, over at PhD2Published.

The importance of ‘story’ in journal articles and academic writing was (very) slow in coming to me. When someone first said to me, “At least we have a story,” I was frankly confused. What on earth is a story in a journal article? We have results, not a story. By the time someone else said it to me, I wondered if it might be an insult…. Yet another person re-wrote my whole paper, and when I wanted to know what he’d done, he described in his eclectic fashion that he tried to tell a story, and how he did that.

Now I seem to hear about story all the time – but I suspect that many starting writing papers, like me, have no idea what it means. You can read the whole story on story (ah, puns, who can resist them?) over at PhD2Published.

Temperature Differences on an Allotments

So how much difference does it really make whether you put something in the Greenhouse, or outside, or even in the Shed?  And surely one end of the allotment is as good as another?  Well, as it turns out, a fair amount, and no.

When we set up this experiment, I was prepared to see almost no difference, certainly no significant difference, in the temperatures. But the results are quite striking as you can see, even after calibration for the error of the dataloggers.  If you want to stay warm at night, burrow around 15cm underground.  Or go for the nicely insulated wood Shed.  If you fancy some warmth during the day, the Greenhouse is the place to be.
All relatively expected.  But here’s the crazy thing: the bottom of the hill of our South-West facing allotment is warmer during the day and colder during the night. The night time cooling at the bottom of the allotment is probably related to the way that cold air sinks and gets trapped at the bottom of the valley over night. I’m more puzzled that it’s warmer during the day though – I haven’t got a good reason for that yet.

Things I wish I’d known when I started my PhD

I love to learn new things – my continued professional development is full of courses for that reason. But sometimes realisations come a little to late, are frustrating to learn or really mess up a bit of research. Here I’m going to share a few of the things that I have found out that I wish I’d found out just a bit earlier. Some of these points are more specific to climate modelling, others are general.

What is Geoengineering?

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This week I was at the Royal Society meeting on Geoengineering. One of the speakers, Nicholas Pidgeon, talked about research on normal people’s attitudes towards geoengineering. What I thought was interesting was that what he found was that most people don’t know anything about geoengineering. People frequently confused it with geothermal heating. My unrepresentative sample of my friends (who I’ve surely bored on this subject before now?) showed that geoengineering was thought to be something to do with geology, probably an engineering/geology mix. Well, you can’t fault the logic can you?