Sunday, 21st February, 2021

[Day 342]

Today was the type of day in which the poetic would say that the clouds were ‘scudding’ across the sky – in fact, I don’t know if we use that verb for any other object or activity except clouds. Anyway, I got up fairly early-ish and then walked down to the newsagent for our normal Sunday supplies, all done at this hour in the morning in order to get back in time for the Andrew Marr show (which, I am ashamed to say, I largely slept through). Then we made our way down to the park, being met on the way by some of our church friends. We continued our discussions as to what has (not) been going at our local church and the news to date does seem very encouraging for us. In the park we met with our Birmingham University friend and another park regular who occasionally seeks out our company and has a lot to say for himself. Enough said for the moment. We met some more of our church friends who told us that the police had been called out about 6.00 am to a large disturbance in the vicinity of the park involving several young males so I wonder whether some kind of illegal drinks party had been organised.

After lunch, and a brief rest, I thought I would busy myself with the tidy-up of the study. I had ordered several things from Amazon and I hoped that would package them in a fairly large box- which fortunately, they did. I could then use this box to store some competing ‘hardware’ which was adding to the clutter but now they are safely boxed up, labelled and put on a bookcase top where I cannot forget about them but quickly access them when needed.

There is still quite a debate going on as to whether the schools should be ‘open’ on 8th March (not that they ever closed as they catered for the children of key workers as as well as disadvantaged children) The government argue that they will be driven by ‘the data’ but all will be revealed tomorrow afternoon (to Parliament) and then other address to the nation by Boris Johnson at 7.00pm. What is interesting is that Meg and I watched the replay of Thursday night’s Question Time which is broadcast on the Parliament channel between 6.00 and 7.00 on a Sunday. The consensus view (even agreed to by the Tory MP who was part of the panel) was that any lockdown should be gradual in the extreme and there should be a pause after each step to ensure that the R factor does not increase.

The BBC seems to be taking its role as a public educator in these troubled times. I notice that on their website tonight, there is a contribution entitled ‘Lockdown review: What are the risks of schools, pubs and shops reopening?‘ The article appears interesting and informative and was written by a member of the BBC Reality Check unit. There seemed to be plenty of graphs and reference to the latest research evidence so this is probably worth a good read once I have the time.

his morning, acting on a whim, I turned to a section of Google called Google which will detail for any researcher who has published a series of papers how many citations have been received. In this context, a citation is a reference by another author to one’s own published work. In this way, it is possible to measure if only in a simplistic way whether one’s paper had any points within it that another academic wished to reference. I was surprised to find that the most popular paper (twice as many citations as the next highest) was a paper written on the subject of plagiarism.(By the way, my son commented ‘Who did you copy it from?‘) I think that myself and my co-author had just hit the rising tide of concern at just about the right time and also had it published in an electronic journal (which would it easier to find in a wide-ranging Google search, I imagine). The ‘citation indices’ are heavily used in the academic community to help to assess the quality of published work in what was called the Research Assessment Exercise, to which all universities had to subject themselves at regular intervals (every four years as I remember).

The latest data seems to indicate that some 17.5 million of the population (about a third of the adult population) have now been vaccinated. There is also a suggestion this evening that jabs may reduce the amount of transmission by about two-thirds. But we have a difficult job statistically to work out how much of the reduction in transmission is due to vaccine and how much is due to the generalised effects of the lockdown – perhaps this type of analysis might be forthcoming in time, but it is evidently far too early to come to firm conclusions at this stage in the proceedings.