Wednesday, 30 July 2008

ESOF 2008

Scientists, policymakers, journalists and other professionals from around the world gathered at the third Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) in Barcelona, Spain, last week for an open discussion on science. kept a concise blog of proceedings.

Visit the blog

Monday, 28 July 2008

EPSRC removes ring-fence

THE EPSRC has removed ring-fencing for strategically important "national services", they will now have to compete for "responsive mode" funding rather than competing with each other for "directed mode" funding. One casualty is the National Service for Computational Chemistry Software (NSCCS) at Imperial College London, which is to close March 2009. An online petition has been set up condemning the decision. A spokeswoman for the EPSRC is quoted as saying, '"The decision not to fund the NSCCS was taken on the advice of independent scientists through the peer review system."'

Read the THES article in full

The Macho Culture

A forthcoming report produced by the Royal Society of Chemistry, Biochemical Society and the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science shows that the high level of attrition seen in female chemistry PhD students is in large part due to 'isolation in the research group, discomfort in a competitive environment and poor attitudes among supervisors'. The high level of attrition of female students seen after chemistry PhD completion is not seen to the same degree in the biosciences. The full report will be published later in the summer.

Read the THES article in full

Friday, 25 July 2008

Hopping Scientists

The Medical Research Council offers grants aimed at allowing scientists to "hop across" disciplines. THES reports that the grants are 'aimed at provoking new collaborations between the physical and life sciences'. The programme, which is worth up to £2 million this year, 'funds established researchers in the physical sciences to try their hands in the biological and medical science field.

The Discipline Hopping Grant is an annual competition. The deadline for this year’s competition is 4pm on 12th November 2008.'

Read more about the MRC grant

Scientific Migration

A recent Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) postnote addresses the topic of 'International Migration of Scientists and Engineers'. Various 'push' and 'pull' factors are identified such as low wages, lack of career choices, lack of funding (push) and prestige, job satisfaction and 'selective' immigration policies (pull).

As well as discussion on the concept of 'brain drain', the report recognises that there is increasing awareness that migration can benefit both the 'sending' and 'receiving' country - 'brain circulation' rather than 'brain drain'.

Read the postnote in full

Monday, 14 July 2008

Looking ahead

Nancy Rothwell, Raymond Dwek, Alan Malcolm and Richard Dyer address some of the concerns raised about the proposed integration of the Biosciences Federation (BSF) and the Institute of Biology (IoB). Stating that 'many in government and other seats of power are telling us that biology, like chemistry and physics, should have a single voice' and 'there is much to be gained in efficiency and effectiveness from the IoB and BSF working closely together, but that does not mean that the process is yet agreed or will be easy'.

Read the THES article in full

The Chosen Few

HEFCE has chosen 21 universities to test-drive the Research Excellence Framework. The institutions chosen are: Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Durham, East Anglia, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Stirling, Sussex, as well as, Imperial College London, Institute of Cancer Research, London School of Tropical Medicine, Queen's University Belfast, The Robert Gordon University, the Royal Veterinary College and University College London.

These pilot institutions will provide Hefce with citations data for all staff eligible for inclusion in the 2008 RAE, regardless of whether the staff member was actually submitted. There are however, concerns that the institutions will treat the pilot as an opportunity to boost their standing.

Read the THES story in full

Extra Points For Effort

Academics from Durham University have analysed data from nearly 1 million school pupils and found that it was much more difficult to earn top grades in some subjects than in others, THES reports. The researchers concluded that subjects such as physics, chemistry and biology at A level are a whole grade harder than drama, sociology and media studies.

Read the THES story in full

Survey Sparks Concern

After polling more than 2,200 US federally funded scientists, a report has found that the rate at which research fraud among scientists is reported is alarmingly low. The results (published in Nature) gave an estimate of 2,325 possible cases of research fraud each year. THES reports that the survey, 'said to be the most systematic to date, found that only 58% of all the cases were reported to university officials'.

Read the THES article in full

New Research Concordat Launched

A new "Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers" has been launched by Ian Pearson, Science Minister. The document aims to set out the responsibilities of research managers, funders and universities in supporting researchers' careers. However, their are concerns that the document does not fully address the problem of fixed-term contracts. The University and College Union have said 'when nearly 80 per cent of researchers remain on fixed-term contracts and were still "routinely under threat of dismissal" when individual research projects ended, the concordat should go beyond the letter of the law'.

Read the THES articles in full