Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The phoenix rises from the ashes, the coelacanth from the ocean!

Apologies, dear reader. This blog has been dormant for over a year...

There were a couple of reasons for this
  1. I felt the need to re-focus my efforts on my "day job" in bacterial pathogenomics rather than devote myself to things Darwinian and evolutionary
  2. I also did somewhat max out on Darwin and evolution during the Darwin bicentenary year.
However, in the last eighteen months, I have had some success in getting grants in and papers out (although papers still lagging behind grants), what with an MRC grant on Acinetobacter genomics, a BBSRC grant on the chicken gut microbiome and a major stake in an NIHR research centre for surgical reconstruction and microbiology. Plus the blog and twitter feeds associated with my research group (@pathogenomenick and @mjpallen) are now well established. So, there is now enough slack in the system for me to return to this blog!

But another more pressing reason presents itself—in fact, a new highly positive development. My University, the University of Birmingham, has adopted my book The Rough Guide to Evolution as the "Birmingham book", which will be given out to all new undergraduates starting this October (>5000 students!).

The book was selected after a due process involving judges from all over the University. I am very flattered that the selection panel agreed that the book covers the influence of evolutionary thinking across all disciplines and human endeavours, so it can form a talking point for tutorials and teaching in all sorts of courses. Its adoption by the University is a bold move, but our Vice-Chancellor has said that whether students agree with or disagree with, like or dislike the subject, they have to confront the big ideas of time and evolution is one of them. It is going to one huge evolution fest, with so many students and staff thinking about evolution all in the same place and at the same time. Does anyone know of any similar venture elsewhere in the world!?

Anyhow, with this new development, I am more conscious than ever of how events have moved on in the last couple of years since I wrote the book and how much needs updating. I have discussed the possibility of a second edition with the publishers, but it seems that the book trade is down on its luck at the moment and they won't commit to that just now.

So, I intend to fill in the gaps here, on this blog, reviewing all the exciting new publications and productions that stemmed from the bicentenary year, plus highlighting new discoveries that augment what is in the book, so that when students start in October they will have an online supplement to bring them right up to date. Please send me your suggestions for what I should review or discuss as the big discoveries or best publications/productions in evolution 2009-11!

I thank anyone who has kept me in your blogroll and ask all those who deleted it to restore it!

And to jump-start the renaissance of the blog, let me post my favourite top ten posts from the 180+ that I posted in 2008-9: