When I was a post-graduate student at the Biomedical Centre, BMC, in Uppsala, I shared an office with five other students. Each of us had a small desk, approximately 1 m wide, with panels on either side. My desk tended to overflow with lab notes and scientific articles – and a few other things as well.
Every now and then, the administrative supervisor would visit us on a safety inspection. On one particular occasion, he came into our office and suggested that my desk was so cluttered with paper that it posed a serious fire risk. He suggested that an overflowing and untidy desk reflects on the contents of my mind. I replied: “I assume that your desk is empty!” This he happily confirmed and continued with his inspection.
My desk was the cause of concern on another occasion. At the time, I was programme director at MASE-laboratories and we were, together with BioAgri, expecting a visit from the King of Sweden. A couple of days before the visit, the security police dropped by to ensure that everything was suitably presentable for the royal entourage. The police officer insisted that my desk should be tidied before the visit, and was not impressed by my suggestion that His Royal Highness would benefit more from seeing things as they are in real life. On the day of the visit, my door was kept closed so that the King was denied seeing the secrets that were hidden behind. I kept a low profile at the back of the room.