November Newsletter - National Novel Writing Month


Jilly MacKay


November 30, 2023


Having got my fourth paper of the year (and first first-author paper!) out I confess to feeling a bit of relief. I returned from mat leave in February and I was a bit worried about spinning back up again. It feels good to be trading in the currency of science once more.

I frequently find myself feeling a bit uncomfortable about papers. Generally, I think the paper format and ‘system’ is part of the problem with science, not the solution. I think we need to move to some kind of wiki-like format of ever evolving results and findings that aren’t cited so much as networked. That said, this is a part of the (current) scientific process that I enjoy and I think I’m good at it. I even find myself sanguine about reviewers comments these days. It is a little awkward when you recognise one of your key skills is probably not what’s best for the development of the field as a whole.

It has made me think about hybrid working as well. Before Covid, no one batted an eye at how often I worked from home, but now it’s part of a topic. I definitely work from home more now I have the facility to do so (and I’m so often ill with a child in nursery). I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of November feeling unwell, and huddling up at my desk with a heatpad and a cup of hot water because it’s all I could drink.This is how I write best, in fact (well - minus the illness), and while this kind of work is valued by my employers, I would like to be able to do it in the way that works best for me.

Curriculum Transformation

This month I have attended every Curriculum Transformation Programme workshop I was invited to, and I’m loving it. This is an ambitious project within the University of Edinburgh aimed at reviewing all of our teaching at Edinburgh and looking at what we can do to challenge and support all our students.

I highly recommend that everyone at Edinburgh engages with this project. The workshops have been fascinating, and have really made me think about the systems in place at an institution such as Edinburgh. More and more in my career, I’ve grown interested in human behaviour change (so much so it now has its own page on my research interests), and I find myself puzzling over the interaction between technology systems and social interactions more and more.

At the moment, the CTP is in a very fun, ideas-testing stage, but I’m chomping at the bit to see more experiments in practice. This will not be a quick process, but I think it could be really . . . transformative (I’ll get my coat).


We went on our second ever family holiday, this time a weekend away to the Lake District. Visited the Beatrix Potter Exhibition which was delightfully odd.

It was also NaNoWriMo this month, or National Novel Writing Month. I love this exercise and take part as often as I can. I am delighted to say that I finished this year. NaNoWriMo is one of those great times where the focus is on quantity not quality, and this is very much where I can shine. See my paper writing comments above . . .

Wishing you all a smooth sailing into the Winter break.