A few random comments

I have spent the whole day setting exam questions and I’m brain dead. So for light relief (for me at least), here are some thoughts…………..

Continuous Assessment

Only for the fact that I wish to be cremated (when dead!), I think I would have the words ‘the devil is in the detail’ on my headstone. Mind you, as a former altar boy who was once shown the movie The Devil Rides Out on an indoctrination trip to Clonliffe College, the idea of having the word ‘devil’ on my headstone seems a little bit inadvisable. A bit like Voltaire’s supposed deathbed comment about not wishing to make enemies.

Therefore, while I would instinctively welcome the introduction of continuous assessment into the Junior Cert, I will only be convinced when I see the details. Continuous assessment is, after all, just assessment that’s done …continuously. It could just mean lots of small exams rather than one big one. We’ll see.

Hubs and Hospitals

I found it odd that three University Presidents dipped their oars into the debate on the location for the National Children’s Hospital. The argument seems to have been that developing an on-site ‘world class hub’ in biomedical research should be a key consideration.

So, in one building you would have a bunch of people in lab coats doing molecular biology etc. while in another, close by, you’d have patients and medics. I suppose the argument is that the proximity of the two groups would lead to all sorts of collaborations and synergies ultimately leading to better patient outcomes. My instinct is to be sceptical. It’s a long way from the lab to the patient no matter where the buildings are.

Back to Basics

This year I have lectured the old-fashioned way. I’ve provided no notes on the network for the students, just the occasional short handout. My approach has been to ‘chalk and talk’, albeit on a whiteboard. I’ve gone through the material more slowly, covered less of it and expected the students to turn up, listen and take notes. The latter seems to be a dying skill.

The consequence is that teaching is a lot more spontaneous and enjoyable but it is more intense. I don’t like to simply transcribe my own notes during a lecture so full concentration is required not only by the students, but by me! Whether the students do any better in the exams remains to be seen.

Open Access

The Open Access issue is in the news again. I have mixed feeling about this whole debate. I’ve no real ideological problem with private companies making profit from the dissemination of knowledge – maybe the magnitude of that profit. Furthermore, many journals have a long history and tradition that we should be slow to discard. A bit like Manchester City and Manchester United. Now matter how well City perform this year or next, they simply won’t have the appeal of United.

I have to say though that, personally, I’m a bit fed up of the whole ‘paper machine’ that is modern academia. The sheer quantity of stuff produced is mind-boggling. It all seems like a bit of a game designed purely for CV building.

In the future, I’m going to take a very different approach to how I disseminate my work. More on that in due course.


And finally, for AD in London, I had a ham and tomato sandwich and bottle of diet 7-up!



About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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