Catch you later CoDI

For those of you who don’t know, I’m Alex the CoDI 16 intern. 

When I applied for the job I admittedly didn’t really know anything about CoDI, or what I was getting myself into, however the greatest surprise of all was just how rewarding it would be.

Looking back to my first day at Morgan Lane now feels a life time ago, despite actually only being a mere 14 weeks. If you had told me then that by the end of the madness I would be able to recite our CoDI 16 programme backwards I would have laughed, a lot. If you had told me that I would be running the actual shows alone, with only a dwarf disabled weegie and a producer with severe RBF, I would have cried. Today however, despite it all I wouldn’t change a thing… okay maybe the rain and rocking up on 4 hours sleep, fresh off TransPennine’s delightful 7am Manchester direct train, with a 3 day hangover, having to do a mad dash across the city in 15 minutes for some A3 boob print outs, only to be heckled by aforementioned weegie… (see below). Needless to say that was the end of my fringe partying (Day 4 of 25).

team chatBefore CoDI, internships meant little more to me than ‘no summer holiday’. After being somewhat blackmailed into growing up by my parents however I now find myself finishing my 14th week of one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. CoDI has gone above and beyond any and all of my expectations. I had heard about internships where you just did paperwork and mundane tasks, where your bosses were always too busy for you and where you wouldn’t return if it was the last job on Earth. CoDI could not have been further from that.

From the very start my wonderful bosses have trusted me and all my ideas, given me full responsibility and been incredibly approachable and appreciative. So a humongous thanks to Heather and Sarah for enabling me to grow as much as I have. A second thanks goes out to all 33 of the amazing CoDI performers this year, who have been a delight to market, and who have taught me about all sorts of dangerous ideas from more plastics to mechanical hearts. Seeing everyone’s hard work come together for the Fringe was incredibly rewarding, which was over before it begun – as the saying goes ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. More thanks to the wonderful Stand team who met all my last minute demands and kept us going each and every day. Last but not least, Susan and Stephen, my other two bosses who gave me a real run for my money when it came to sarcasm, demands and business skills. Each and every day was filled with entertainment thanks to your loving relationship and unique characters!

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas by definition is ‘debate, discussion and discourse in the company of some of the fiercest intellects that Scotland has to offer – all within a yurt!’. As someone who has been behind the scenes for the last three and a half months however, I can tell you it is much more than that. CoDI is driven by public engagement, and getting researchers to provoke the public into thinking, questioning and debating what they hear. At CoDI the audience is just as crucial as the performer. Getting to sit and watch the shows, and not only hear about the researchers’ dangerous ideas, but the public’s too, was incredibly thought provoking.

In the run up to the Fringe CoDI hold a number of bootcamps for performers, and something that really stood out to me was the sense of community. Everyone who takes part in CoDI is in it together, instead of seeing each other as competitors they see them as team mates. Veterans of CoDI are always there to offer advice and support to newbies. Those who are social media savvy are ready to promote those who confuse grindr and snapchat, you get the picture. So in some ways I was the marketing mother of my 25 CoDI show children, with a grumpy uncle Stephen, that aunt Susan who you’re always surprised to see hasn’t been put in a home yet, granddad John and his Barry White Collection, and grandma Sarah and Heather who are always nagging you to take a day off.

To say that I will miss CoDI is an understatement. Between emails, tweets, designing adverts, transporting signs, rogue presenters (looking at you Thomas – flyering til the very last second) and Susan’s ability to morph from Tiger to Satellite to a (literally) pig headed shop assistant, there was never a dull moment. I have learnt a lot about marketing, running a show and surviving the fringe, and I’ve come to love my dysfunctional CoDI family, but the time has come to say good bye, good luck and thank you so much for everything these last 14 weeks!

(Day 25, not sure if I’m about to cry or die)


25 Days of CoDI: Day 25

 On the final day of CoDI, Dr Haddow came to me, with her one-stop-body shop of animal transplants, mechanical implants and biofabricated organs…

Dr Gill Haddow: One-Stop-Human-Body Shop

 Gill Pig

What is your background?

Varied!  I have previously worked in a chip shop, in a hairdressers, and as a children’s shoe fitter, before heading to University in the nineties to pick up other qualifications.  I came to Edinburgh from Fife to study Sociology. I loved my under-graduate course so much I failed to notice that it was actually polite to leave (as the other under-grads had done). As no one pointed this out I just stayed until I gained my PhD in 2002. It was challenging but immensely rewarding doing the research for the thesis as I was interviewing bereaved relatives about the decision to donate organs.  These people were so generous in giving their time and sharing their stories with me in truly awful circumstances. 


Since then I have been based in Science, Technology and Innovations Studies doing what I do best. What does Gill do best you ask?  Well researching patient experiences and views of the public about new and emerging medical technologies, obviously (no wearing a pig head was not the answer). This has included telemedicine, DNA databases, xenotransplantation and, more recently implantable smart technologies.  As a sociologist I am really interested in how technology shapes our individual/social and bodies/life.  I currently have a Wellcome Trust award called ‘Animal, Mechanical and Me: The Search for Replaceable Hearts’. Additionally I am writing a book (no really!). It is titled ‘Embodiment and the Everyday Cyborgs: Technology of an Altered Life.’  More about the project is available at and folks can find me on twitter @gillhaddow.

What do you do now?

I am Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow based in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh.  I am based in High School Yards at Old Surgeon’s Hall. It is a lovely old building where, rumour has it, the nineteenth century body-snatchers Burke and Hare brought their wares.  They also found a couple of knights buried in the car park last year I think:

How does your CoDI talk fit with your research?

Well my ‘One-stop-Human-Body Shop’ pretty much summarises the alternatives that are currently possible to repair, replace or regenerate our bodies.  As more of us live longer (so the story goes) then more of us will need more in us due to the requirement to maintain our aging bodies.  So my question to the audience is this ‘If you had the choice would you choose a high risk human organ; a genetically modified pig organ; a totally artificial heart or a 3-D bioprinted one?’.  Some are further in development than others so it’s a hypothetical question sure. Nevertheless, I think the answers raise interesting questions about human beings, being human.

Why are you participating in CoDI 2016?

I am really excited about taking this question about repairing, replacing or regenerating the body out there if you like.  I strongly believe that academics in this ‘day and age’ we have a responsibility to get off out of the institution and engage folks with our ideas. 

Having said all that I can’t pretend I am not nervous however. Although there is no denying being on stage appeals to my inner drama queen or actress.

What are you looking forward to most from CoDI?

Learning & laughing; asking the audience questions they may not have ever thought about and getting back answers that I had never considered! 


Gill’s show takes place on Sunday 28th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:

Gill Body Shop


25 Days of CoDI: Day 24

On the penultimate day of CoDI Clare was quick to warn me, of the antibiotic apocalypse I could never see!

Clare Taylor: The Antibiotic Apocalypse Threatens Us All!

So tell us, who is Clare Taylor?

I am a Senior MedicalMicrobiology Lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University and currently General Secretary of the Society for Applied Microbiology. I’m also a Beltane Fellow (they tell me it is for life) and enjoy discussing science with pretty much anyone who will listen!

My scientific passion is for bacteria that invade human cells and cause infection, known as intracellular pathogens. In my lab we work on Salmonella and Listeria, two bacteria that are commonly associated with foodborne infection. We are trying to understand aspects of how these bacteria interact with humans during infection.

Furthermore, we are also trying to use our growing knowledge to effectively turn these bacteria against themselves. For example, by developing novel antimicrobial therapeutics that exploit some of the bacterium’s own ‘weapons’.  I’ve performed 3 shows at CODI during the Fringe in 2014 and 2015 and I am looking forward to some lively debate about my research this year too!

We always enjoy your CoDI appearances, what have you got in store for us this year?

Antibiotics are a type of therapeutic agent that are used to treat bacterial infection. We have been using them in human medicine since the 1940s but they are also widely used in veterinary medicine and to promote growth of livestock.  But why are we hearing more and more about the ‘antibiotic apocalypse’ (just Google: antibiotic apocalypse…)?

Experts, including clinicians and microbiologists are talking about antibiotic resistance more and more, but do you know what this actually means? When surveyed, almost a third of respondents described antibiotic resistance as “it’s the body becoming resistant to antibiotics”.CODI 13.08.15 Women, science is still not for you (credit Dee Davison)

Tell us more…

In actual fact, it means that antibiotic resistant bacteria can no longer be treated with a particular type of antibiotic. Therefore, if we get an infection with one of these bacteria, we can’t treat it with the antibiotic of choice. This means it is down to who wins the battle – body or bacterium – that determines whether you survive or not.

This all sounds very serious, doesn’t it? And what is this apocalyptic scenario that many are referring to? Come and see the show to ask questions to find out. In addition, I’ll tell you about some of the work we are doing in the lab to try and develop alternative ways of treating infection. Who knows,  you might even get the chance to do your bit for scientific research.

Clare’s show takes place on Saturday 27th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:

Antibiotic apocalypse


25 Days of CoDI: Day 23

Shhhhhh it’s a surprise….

On the twenty-third day of CoDI Beltane revealed little to me…

IndyRef2: The Rebellion Continues?23-brexit

We don’t want to give too much away but here’s a sneak peak:

A Tory victory at the General Election, the crushing of Labour in Scotland, chaos on the Opposition front benches, and, finally, England voted Leave, Scotland voted Remain. 

Britain’s on the edge of Brexit, so is the stage set for Indyref 2?

Was the referendum a once in a lifetime opportunity?

Which referendum?

Should there be IndyRef2?

Can we get to Europe on our own and who wants a job manning the Border Crossing booth at Gretna….?

Join us to hear what Tommy Sheppard and Nicola McEwen have to say – but more importantly, get your voice heard.

Watch this space as we reveal our other guest speakers over the coming weeks!

The show (inc debate) takes place on Wednesday 24th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:


25 Days of CoDI: Day 22

On the twenty-second day of CoDI Khadijah spoke up to ‘Let Extremists Speak’

Khadijah Elshayyal: Let Extremists Speak?


Tell us a little bit about yourself and the show Khadija Extremists

My name is Khadijah Elshayyal. I am a research fellow at the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, at the University of Edinburgh. Here I conduct research and teach on the subject of Muslims in Britain. I am particularly interested in Muslim identity politics in Britain, and how this has evolved over time. Historically, freedom of expression has featured regularly in causes championed by British Muslim representative and advocacy groups. I argue that over the past few decades, there has been an interesting interplay between the development of British Muslim identity politics on one hand, and British Muslim perspectives on freedom of expression on the other.

How does your CoDI talk fit with your research?

One of the most pressing and controversial topics affecting British Muslims in recent times have been the impacts of counter-terrorism measures and securitization – many of which are acutely felt. Since 2000, successive counter-terrorism legislation has ventured further and further into the area of restricting expression. For example, the Terrorism Act 2006 introduced what are often referred to as ‘encouragement offences’ . These make ‘the glorification of terrorism’ a criminal offence. The government of the day, and successive governments, have justified this on the grounds that it is meant to address the threats posed by ‘non-violent extremists’ – those who may not commit acts of violence, but who’s rhetoric is considered to encourage or legitimize it.

Other aspects of government counter-extremism policy, for instance the controversial Prevent strategy, have also been criticized for arguably monitoring expression within communities or creating a chilling effect. People are inhibited from freely expressing themselves , for fear that they may be reported or prosecuted. Religion and politics, for example, are two particular areas where people restrict their speech . Worse still, extremist individuals and groups that have been banned have continued to operate ‘underground’ or regularly re-emerged using new names.

But freedom of expression is often portrayed as one of our most cherished values?

Indeed, David Cameron, and current PM Theresa May, have both championed ‘individual liberty’ as part of the ‘British values’ that we should all be signing up to. So how comfortably do these increasing restrictions on expression sit with our liberal, ‘British’ values?

Is the restriction of expression in the name of security a necessary trade-off? Or are we contradicting the very values that we hold dear?

Do aspects of government securitization policy affect Muslims and other minorities disproportionately? Are we creating ‘suspect communities’ as a result? What are the impacts of this on integration and social cohesion?

All of these and more are questions that I hope to discuss and unpack at my show.

Why did you choose to take part in CODI 2016?

I feel passionately that many of these issues have become victims of oversimplified and sensationalized media coverage. It often suits politicians and journalists to promote a black and white narrative around issues to do with national security. Often this can have serious real world consequences – such as surges in Islamophobia and hate crimes. Such consequences could be seen after the EU referendum.

The public deserve a more nuanced, in depth discussion around what the issues at stake are. A discussion away from irresponsible rhetoric, peppered with inflated, broad-brush statistics, that have been so generalized as to be bereft of any real meaning.

I hope that at CODI we can look beyond the tabloid headlines and the political soundbites to better understand the issues around extremism, security, integration and Islamophobia as they affect British Muslims and us all.

What are you looking forward to most from CoDI?

CODI is a great opportunity to engage directly with the public – to take academic debates outside of the lecture theatre and into the open where they can be interrogated, defended, critiqued, as well as mocked and ridiculed.

Khadijah’s show takes place on Monday 22nd August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:

Extremists poster

25 Days of CoDI: Day 21

On the twenty-first day of CoDI Mcara and McVie called to me… ‘Let’s all hug a thug’

Lesley McAra and Susan McVie: Hug a Thug

Let’s all hug a thug!CODI (25.08.15) Hug a thug (credit Lucy Gibbons) (3)

In July 2006, David Cameron gave his famous ‘hug a hoodie’ speech in which he claimed that this archetypal adolescent fashion accessory had become “a vivid symbol of what has gone wrong with young people in Britain today”.  So what does the hoodie really represent?  Lesley and Susan dig deeper into adolescent deviant sub-culture and explain why we should all ‘hug a thug’ instead.

Tell us a bit about yourselves?

Lesley is Professor of Penology (that sometimes gets a snigger) and Dean of Public Engagement. Meanwhile Susan is Professor of Quantitative Criminology (bit of a mouthful).  We are both passionate researchers with an interest in youth crime and juvenile justice. Together (amongst many other things) we co-direct the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime. The Study is longitudinal, made up of around 4000 young people based in Scotland’s capital city.

We approach our work from a developmental point of view – in other words, we are interested in how people change as they go through life – and we firmly believe that people’s futures are not pre-determined by their past.  Everyone has the capacity to change, even those who get a really bad start in life. As a result of researching the lives of many young people, we can identify things that can help offenders to get back on track and desist from crime. Hug A Thug Lesley

What does your research tell us about ‘thugs’?

We have used the term ‘thugs’ to be provocative in our show. What we really aim to do however, is to show that young people who get involved in offending (not all of which wear hoodies, by the way) have many different dimensions to their lives. They are not all the same.  Many people get involved in a little bit of offending as part of their ‘normal’ transition from childhood to adulthood. Go on – admit it – haven’t most of us done something that we were not proud of while we were growing up?

A smaller number of young people will get involved in a more serious and long term pattern of offending. That pattern can often lead to contact with the criminal justice system and, in some cases, lead to imprisonment.  These people find it harder to desist from offending, for a variety of reasons. For this reason, it is important that we use our research to find ways of both preventing them from offending and reducing their offending once they have started.

Are some people just born bad?

There is very little evidence that anybody is ‘born bad’, although there have been some studies that show some genetic influences on behavior.  The research in this area tends to suggest that someone with particular genetic markers will only be at increased risk of offending if they are brought up in a damaging environment; for example, they are exposed to poor parenting practices and they are not nurtured as well as they should be.

Most of the research evidence shows a wide variety of social and environmental factors, that impact on people’s behavior. By minimizing the negative influences and promoting the positive ones we can help to change people’s behavior for the better.  The reality is that most young people who get involved in more serious and persistent offending are also very vulnerable. They come from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds.  There is a very high probability that they will have been victims of crime themselves. Often they are struggling to cope with life on a day to day basis.  They may lack the skills and support to tackle the problems that keep them in a cycle of offending behavior.

The difficulty is that there is no one ‘pathway’ that all people who offend follow. Tailored solutions are needed to meet individual needs.  But this can be expensive and difficult to target (especially because we don’t necessarily know who is going to be involved in the most offending).  The key is to identify ‘typical’ lifestyles and patterns of behavior. From there we must do our best to try and  support those in society who may be most ‘at risk’. Hug A Thug Susan

So what happens to young people who offend?

Evidence from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime shows that young people who offend tend to just grow out of it naturally – they mature and go on to lead normal, law abiding lives.  In fact, most adolescent offences are very low level. So much so that they do not come to the attention of the criminal justice system.  Some (although not all) young people who get involved in more serious or persistent offending will come to the attention of the police. It is their decision as to whether the person needs to be dealt with formally or not.  They may be referred to the Children’s Reporter or they may be charged and taken to court.

A small proportion of young people end up in prison because of their offending behavior.  However, there is increasing emphasis on using alternatives to imprisonment.This is due to the recognition that prison can have a damaging effect on young people. Moreover it can often make them more likely to carry on committing crime.  Alternatives to imprisonment include things like community service, electronic tagging and diversion to drug treatment programmes.

Why should people come and see you in CoDI 2016?

Everybody is interested in crime!  And our show aims to take a light hearted approach to challenging commonly held perceptions about offending and offenders.  The title ‘hug a thug’ is intended to show that we believe a compassionate approach to dealing with young people who offend is likely to be more productive than punishing them.

Scotland is a very progressive country. Many of the changes to our criminal justice system in recent years have moved in a positive direction – especially the increased focus on using alternatives to imprisonment.  We will give our audience a flavor of what it’s like to go to prison (including sight and smell) and discuss the advantages of alternative disposals, such as electronic tagging.


Lesley and Susan’s show takes place on Friday 26th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:

Hug A Thug BarsHug A Thug

25 Days of CoDI: Day 20

On the twentieth day of CoDI, Helen, Miguel, and Tilo ask whether Dolly, the famous cloned sheep, was a major discovery or a curious scientific distraction?

Helen Sang, Miguel Garcia Sancho Sanchez and Tilo Kunath: Dolly The Sheep

It’s been 20 years since the birth of Dolly – the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell.  The media frenzy that followed was a mixed one. There was both celebration due to the grand scientific achievement and fear because of the seemingly real possibility of human cloning.

Why was Dolly cloned in the first place? What did we learn from this almost futuristic experiment? Furthermore, was there any benefit to human society and human health? Cloning doesn’t seem to be widespread 20 years after Dolly, so what benefits, if any, have we gained from cloning.

Please join Prof Helen Sang, Dr Miguel Garcia-Sancho, and Dr Tilo Kunath for a lively discussion as they attempt to address these questions and hear your views.

Dolly the Sheep Cake
Dolly’s 20th Birthday Cake

About Prof Helen Sang

Helen has a PhD in genetics from Cambridge University. When Dolly was cloned at the Roslin Institute Helen was there. Her research involves applying genetic engineering in chickens, with a major aim to produce chickens that are resistant to bird flu. In addition, she has a keen interest in discussing the issues involved in genetic modification of foods.

About Dr Miguel Garcia-Sancho

Miguel studied History of Science for his PhD at Imperial College London. He is a Chancellor’s Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests are in the history of contemporary biomedicine, with special emphasis on the emergence of biotechnology as a new form of knowledge production that is still shaping our era.

About Dr Tilo Kunath

Tilo is a stem cell biologist who obtained his PhD from the University of Toronto. He is a Group Leader at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine where he uses stem cells to model and understand Parkinson’s disease. He uses “reprogramming” technology to make induced stem cells from the skin of Parkinson’s patients.

Dolly’s show takes place on Thursday 25th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:

Dolly printed background

25 Days of CoDI: Day 19

On the nineteenth day of CoDI a crazy Canadian said to me “More Plastics = A Better World”

Mike Shaver: More Plastics = A Better World

More plastic?! Is he from Mars? Actually no he’s not…


Introduce yourself Mikemichael shaver

I’m Mike.

Okay very funny, now seriously, tell us a bit about yourself…

Well I’m certainly not from Mars… I’m a Canadian, first and foremost. I studied inorganic chemistry in Canada at Mount Allison University and the University of British Columbia. At the end of my PhD, I decided I wanted to develop chemistry with real global impact, so when I was awarded an NSERC Post-doctoral Fellowship, I made a big career change into polymer chemistry at (and my first trans-Atlantic journey to) Imperial College London.

Mike Map

From there, I moved back to Canada and started an independent career working in “green” polymer chemistry. In short this involved improving the sustainability of polymers (plastics, coatings, adhesives, materials). It was at this stage of my career that I also started to care passionately about public understanding of science. I began participating in a number of public engagement events, including multiple appearances on CBC Radio and Television (the Canadian equivalent of the BBC).

Mike CR LogoMike UOE Logo





In an effort to increase the impact of my research (and public engagement, of course), I took up the opportunity to move to the University of Edinburgh almost 4 years ago. This has been a big boost, as our group has been able to work with a diverse array of industrial partners to develop new products and explore improving different processes through designing new catalysts and new polymers. In addition, I’ve  expanded the scope of my public engagement events. I did a TEDx talk, numerous stand-up comedy shows through Bright Club, and lots of other talks and events. Much of this has been focused on demystifying what the word plastics means to the general public – taking what is a negative opinion and getting people to think a bit deeper about these essential materials.

Mike @ TEDOkay, so now that we have your life history, tell us where does CoDI fit into all of this? 

I think CODI is the perfect way to reach such an interested audience and build a conversation around plastics – the contentious statement of needing more plastics, not less, seems flawed at its core, but that’s why I chose it! Hopefully people come along with both a strong opinion AND an open mind!

Mike’s show takes place on Tuesday 23rd August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:

Michael Plastic


25 Days of CoDI: Day 18

On the eighteenth day of CoDI, Nicola got me wondering what she would find if she googled me…

Nicola Osborne: If I Googled You, What Would I Find?

Odds are there is something about you on the internet… But, did you share it? Did someone else? And what are those tracks and traces saying about you?

Tell us a bit about yourself…N Osborne

Well, first of all I am Nicola Osborne.  I work as Digital Education Manager and Service Manager at EDINA, based at the University of Edinburgh. My role essentially means I get to work on lots of really interesting innovative technology, as well as education projects. These include citizen science, mobile apps, etc.  My background and research interest is around social media and how we present ourselves and engage online.

So what brings you to CoDI, or rather what do you bring to it?

In my CODI 2016 show – my fourth! – I’m going to be talking about the tracks and trails we all leave behind online. I’ll explore how they get there, what they say about us, and some of the ways we can manage our digital footprints more effectively.The show is also an opportunity to share some of what we have learned from the recent (2014-) “Managing Your Digital Footprint” research we’ve Digital Footprint been undertaking at the University of Edinburgh. In that project we’ve been asking our students how they use social media, how they manage and think about their online presence, and what that means for teaching and support practices.

One of the things I’m keen to share in my show is the choice and opportunities that social media and online presences can provide. My own life has been improved immeasurably by the people and information I’ve connected to through web and social media activity.

But, of course, I’ll have a few scarier stories too. It can be very easy to forget how often we share or volunteer information about ourselves in the course of our daily life, while accessing the internet. Consequently, we don’t always think about what we’ve agreed to share, or what footprint we are leaving behind…

Care to expand?

For instance, if you (or your kids) play Pokemon Go, the hit game of the summer, you’ll have been asked to agree to:

1. share your personal data, including your date of birth;
2. ensure that your personal data is accurate – and that you commit to keep it up to date in the future;
3. you agree for any message you send or receive to other players to be stored for as long as the good folks at Pokemon decide is suitable;
4. you share your IP address,
5. you share the unique identifier for your mobile device;
6. you share your location data which you agree to let Pokemon Go share with other users of the game…

When you put it like that…

And you do that in exchange to download a “free” app. An app that essentially lets you chase and challenge cute animated characters around town on your phone. The game seems awesome. I can’t deny it’s very entertaining watching folk out and about playing it in the Edinburgh sunshine. But maybe you didn’t know about all of the date you were sharing when signing up to those terms? Maybe you just hit the big Approve button? It is always the tempting offer…

Between our social media profiles, gaming profiles, public information about us, and our browsing, buying and clicking habits, most of us that live at least part of our lives online are building up complex “digital footprints” – tracks and traces of ourselves that tell a story about who we are, what we do, what we care about… But how accurate is that picture? When did you last search for yourself online? Do you like what you see?Nicola @ CoDI15

So what are you most looking forward to about taking part in you know, your FOURTH CoDI?

In the show I’m looking forward to sharing some of the ways our digital tracks and traces matter. I’ll be exploring how they represent us and how we can make more informed choices presenting ourselves online. And I’m particularly excited to hear from my lovely audience about their own experiences, concerns and some silly stories too!

So, in conclusion,  If I Googled you, what would I find? Join me on 21st August for some thrills, spills and ideas for managing your digital footprint more effectively!

Nicola’s show takes place on Sunday 21st August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

Purchase tickets at:


25 Days of CoDI: Day 17

On the seventeenth day of CoDI it was time to take a look at our fellow fury friends…


MaryBownes: Should We Have Zoos?zoo

So you don’t think zoos are doing any harm? Oh you over there, you do? Well then, let’s see what Professor Mary Bownes has to say about it all…

Over to you Mary

 Tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a developmental biologist and have studied reproductive biology hormones, genetics and molecular biology for many years. During this time I introduced new undergraduate courses, ran the Institute of cell and molecular biology, and trained PhD students.


Additionally I found that I was also interested in running the university as a whole. The training of postgraduate students and in public engagement and engagement with schools especially interested me. It seemed that one could not run a large lab and do all these other things that I felt were very important and where I could have a real impact on the future of many people and the way the University operated.  Further to do modern research in this field you always need to have a large lab. You must be extremely competitive, always fighting for new grants and attending and speaking at meetings. Yet many people work on the same problem and if you did not do the research somebody else would.

So if I didn’t do it someone else would.


I therefore decided to stop running a large research lab and to focus fully on public engagement and other university-wide activities. People often ask if I miss my research. Of course you miss the experience of working with an enthusiastic team and discovering new things personally about science, but I actually use my research skills all the time. I genuinely feel that the things I have done instead have really changed the way things happen at the University and well beyond.


I produced teacher resources on stem cells and on Darwin and Evolution which are widely used across the UK.  During the last 12 years I have done many things for the training of postgraduate students ensuring that they are able to talk about their research to the wider public. I have set up activities across all the universities in Edinburgh to get researchers to engage with the wider public about what they are doing and why. I worked extensively on widening access to higher education and the way students can enter the University from different backgrounds. Furthermore, I have been involved in leading sustainability and social responsibility and in running a large fundraising campaign. Much of this work helped students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be able to afford to attend the University.


Eventually, I became Senior Vice-Principal/Deputy Vice Chancellor.

What do you do now?

Having now partly retired from the University, I want to still focus part time on a particular set of projects. These projects, I believe, will lead to better alignment with a number of organisations in the city of Edinburgh and Scotland. This alignment will hopefully lead to a better experience for members of the public and broader education for students. These institutions all have a remit to be available to the public and have an educational aspect to them. Examples of such institutions include The National Museums of Scotland, The National libraries of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland. A less obvious choice perhaps, was to engage with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Edinburgh zoo.


So while my research activity was basic fundamental research in the area of cells, genetics and how things work in an individual organism I should say that I have always been interested in animals and plants. I have visited zoos and wildlife parks and botanic gardens wherever I go. I have also travelled extensively. Highlights include visiting the Kruger National Park in South Africa several times and travelling to the Galapagos Islands, Sri Lanka and Madagascar to watch wildlife and take photographs. This makes me very aware of the issues faced in these countries. Issues regarding extreme poverty and the need to feed the population and improve their health and lifestyles whilst somehow conserving the amazing wildlife that they have.

Why did you choose to take part in CoDI 2016?

As a researcher, the founder of Beltane and a with long term commitment to helping researchers participate in public engagement in a variety of ways, how could I refuse to engage with CODI?  Although I am no longer running a biology research lab, I use my research skills daily. They help in all aspects of decision making relating to my job. I wanted to share my latest thinking relating to the role of zoos in today’s society and how they fit with the aims of an engaged research intensive University. A university who is willing to work in partnership with a variety of organisations.  The new focus of many zoos on conservation, education and research is important. It fits with a wider context of loss of habitat, climate change and loss of species.

What are you most looking forward to at CoDI 2016?

I am really looking forward to hearing the views of a diverse group of people, on whether or not we shall have zoos (and other related organisations like wildlife parks, safari parks, sea life parks and more). Furthermore, assuming we do, what do people think their purpose should be?



Mary’s show takes place on Saturday 20th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)

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