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A Plague on Both Your Houses – why Plague Still Scares Us

Posted 28 July 2014 by Tania Browne

  When Mercutio spoke of “... a plague on both your houses” in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, he was wishing pretty much the worst thing that was possible at that time. The return of the Black Death, which had killed millions across Europe in the middle of the 14th century, was a very real prospect to a jobbing playwright like Shakespeare in a busy, filthy, rat infested city. And plague still grips the public imagination today like few other diseases.... Read more

A Spoonful of Sugar…

Posted 17 July 2014 by Tania Browne

For at least 20 years, epidemiologists have been wondering about what exactly the point is of.... well, what we do. Should we just do the “science bit” and present our results in worthy journals that nobody (except other epidemiologists) reads? Or push the powers that be into using our research to make society a better place? Have we made health policy shortcomings into individual medical issues when they needn't be? A new BMJ paper published this week on “pre-diabetes” brings... Read more

The New Victorians, and the Public Health Dichotomy

Posted 31 March 2014 by Tania Browne

We've talked about this before, and it's not going to go away any time soon. Epidemiology seems to be falling further and further from its public health remit, and it's time for us to claw our way back. A news report I saw today convinced me that we need this now more than ever. Lord Warner, a former Health minister under the Blair government, has co-written a report for the centre right think tank Reform saying that the NHS is... Read more

Mirrors

Posted 28 January 2014 by Tania Browne

  Mirrors - how often do you actually think about them, and how they reflect? I'm prepared to bet that you've already looked in a mirror at least once today, if only as you brushed your teeth or checked your rear view before reversing. We take mirrors for granted. They're always there when we need them, even if it's ensuring your bum doesn't look big in the reflection of a shop window (another kind of checking your rear view). We... Read more

I’m Coming Out

Posted 21 January 2014 by Tania Browne

On November 27th 2013, my husband sat me down and gently pointed out to me that I was in the middle of a nervous breakdown.   You're probably looking to read some kind of punchline now, something flippant like "writer's block had driven me nuts." But there isn't one. Just that cold, stark fact. The previous 18 months had been difficult for my family. My husband had been dismissed from his job unfairly and gone through the tribunal process, with... Read more

Looking Inside The Black Box

Posted 21 November 2013 by Tania Browne

Epidemiology is having an identity crisis. It started over 20 years ago, when there was a sudden flurry of papers and editorials wondering who epidemiologists were, what we were doing and what would come next. And it's clear that even 20 years later, we still haven't come to any conclusions. You see, all of those newspaper articles you read on your commute? About how lemon pith or licorice might give you cancer but fresh coffee or learning to play the... Read more

Ripples of Doubt

Posted 17 October 2013 by Tania Browne

"What about me? What, wasn't I pretty enough? Why did he not target me?" I think, for some women scientists in my Twitter timeline today, words along these lines were some of the most difficult things they'd tried to put into 140 characters. They were saying the unsayable. They were admitting that, as brilliant science writers, confident in their fields,  researchers, academics.... they had doubts. Doubts about how attractive they were. And even worse, doubts because someone didn't sexually harrass... Read more

An Open Letter to The Toast

Posted 15 October 2013 by Tania Browne

Hi Mallory and Nicole, You don't know me, and to be completely frank there's no reason why you should, but my excellent friend Gary Bainbridge recently pointed me in the direction of your website, The Toast, to tell me that you were looking for female science writers. Gary is a decent chap and knows how much I love science. I freely admit it's the first time I'd heard of you but I started looking the site over, loved the attitude... Read more

Bad Romance

Posted 10 October 2013 by Tania Browne

"Hey girls! Do you believe in love? Because I've got something to say about it, and it goes a little something like this..." Madonna, "Respect Yourself" Break ups are always horrible. They cause pain, recrimination and, at the very least, regret and wondering how you could have made it work. They're even worse when they're public, of course, and here I put on my Agony Aunt hat and offer my sympathy to the disillusioned healthcare members of the Ethical Standards... Read more

What Lies Beneath – The Hidden World of Clinical Trials

Posted 27 August 2013 by Tania Browne

I know a few scientists from some quite varied disciplines, and one or two friends are climate scientists. I don't know a great deal about climate science and what they do all day, but in my imagination they spend a lot of time on sturdy ships contemplating icebergs with a flask of tea to hand, rather than plotting variables on a climate modelling program in an office somewhere - I can't help it, I'm the romantic type. The thing about... Read more