The fiftieth post

By Shaun Hendy 18/06/2010

Having reached my fiftieth post, I will indulge myself a little by reflecting on some of the posts that have been and gone. Writing this blog has been both a lot of fun and a lot of work. Thanks to google analytics I can see that people do read it, although some articles attract considerably more readers than others.

The top five articles by page views are listed below:

1. Is superconductivity the wrong science for New Zealand?
2. Kiwi superconductivity overcomes resistance
Superconductivity reigns supreme and indeed the topics for both these articles were suggested by readers.  The first generated a lengthy discussion in the comments section, and as a result this article has the most page views by a wide margin.  However it still leads even by unique page views.  If you try to ‘pick winners’, you will to generate a vigorous debate on what those winners will be.

3. The New Zealand skills deficit
This post was only my seventh, but the issues raised have continued to come up in later posts. It will be worthwhile continuing to track the numbers of graduate by field. In particular, I hope that the numbers of physical sciences PhD graduates in New Zealand does not continue to fall. This is also the only data-driven post in the top five.  The rule of thumb that every equation halves your readership seems to extend here to graphs and charts!  This probably shouldn’t surprise me.

4. New Zealand’s productivity paradox
This was a six-part series and the ranking here is based on the average number of page views across the series.  Individual posts in that series would rank higher in this list. The idea for this series came about after several astute readers noted the overlap between my patent analyses and Philip McCann’s work on New Zealand’s economic geography.  Actually, the link between Philip’s work and mine was first made last year by Howard Fancy from Motu after he came to a talk I gave on networks of inventors at MoRST.  I finally decided to launch into the series after seeing a brilliant talk by Philip at the Reserve Bank earlier this year.  

5. Giving a great scientific talk
I originally wrote this with my research group in mind (see below — you will see that a couple of them might also benefit from a post on ’how to show due respect to your supervisor so that he will write you a letter of recommendation that will actually get you a job …’), but realised that it might have a wider readership.  Some of the advice is based on a Physics Today article from the early 1990s:  in those days, the most important tip for giving a scientific talk was to avoid scattering your transparencies over the lecture theatre on the way to the podium.  


After fifty posts, I would also like to thank some of the people that have helped me with this blog.  Most importantly, I want to thank my wife, who edits many of these posts over breakfast and tells me when I am not making sense.  If you spot a typo in a post or I seem more obtuse than usual, it likely means that she is overseas for work (or that I forgot to take the rubbish out).

Also, thanks to the hard-working guys at the Science Media Centre, who have been a pleasure to work with on this and other projects.  Finally, thanks to the many readers who have sent me material to blog about.  I don’t always have time to follow up with a post on everything that is sent in but it is typically very stimulating.