Write on!

July 15, 2010

"It's thumbs up for palaeography!" That was how Dr Jake Latimer, our Head of History (1735-1792 only), responded to the news that King's College London will create a new chair in the subject.

Dr Latimer told our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), that the decision had "emboldened him" to "come out" about his own previously repressed "palaeographic tendencies".

"I entirely agree with the assertion by Jeffrey Hamburger of Harvard University that the study of ancient writing is of fundamental importance. Only the other day, I came across some ancient writing by a certain Cardinal Newman on the idea of a university. According to this esoteric text, a university is a place 'in which the intellect may safely range and speculate ... a place where inquiry is pushed forward, and discoveries verified and perfected, and rashness rendered innocuous, and error exposed, by the collision of mind with mind, and knowledge with knowledge'".

"Those of us who work in a modern university", continued Dr Latimer, "would find these sentiments literally incomprehensible. But a trained palaeographer can reveal that back in the mists of time they once enjoyed some sort of meaning."

Our Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, revealed, however, that Poppleton had no plans to revive the discipline and suggested that Dr Latimer might now turn his expertise to an immediate analysis of the "highly contemporary" writing in his redundancy notice.

There'll always be a Langlands

Our vice-chancellor (£210,000 a year and rising) has vigorously defended the salary currently enjoyed by Sir Alan Langlands, Hefce's chief executive.

He agreed that "on paper", Sir Alan's salary of £234,999 a year could seem "on the high side". But this "totally failed" to take into account the extraordinarily complex work that Hefce had undertaken under Sir Alan's leadership, such as the measurement of research "impact".

"Already," the vice-chancellor continued, "Hefce has spent a year grappling with this issue. But as David Willetts recognised in his recent announcement, yet another full year of deliberation will be needed in order to see if a consensus view emerges.

"Anyone labouring under that sort of intensive workload is worth every single penny - or more precisely, every single £234,999 - of their remuneration."

Out of cite - out of mind

In an article in The Journal of Expanding Citations, our Deputy Head of REF Strategy, Brian Bryan, welcomed the news of an increase in the average number of authors of scientific research papers (Bryan, Jellyby, Linkinwater and Rouncewell, 2010).

"There will always be some critics", writes Mr Bryan, "who will see this as little more than a cynical attempt by people who have had nothing whatsoever to do with a piece of research to bump up their personal ratings" (Chuffey, Dartle, Orlick and Podsnap, 2009).

"But anyone who has made a close study of the issue will recognise that the new average of 4.83 authors per paper represents a rise in genuinely collaborative research" (Bryan, Jellyby, Kenge, Vholes and Wackles, 2008).

In his conclusion, Mr Bryan reserves his most severe strictures for those who suggest that the trend is an example of "bureaucratic madness" (Kafka, Kafka and Kafka, 1925).

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

This brought a little smile to my face: "I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was just some bastard with a torch, bringing me more work."

lolsoc@dircon.co.uk.

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