News in brief

July 4, 2013

Women in science

They’re gone – but why and where?

The Lords Science and Technology Committee is to carry out an inquiry into why so many women drop out of academic science. Its notice announcing the inquiry cites a 2012 European Commission study that found that women made up about 42 per cent of UK academic staff but only 17 per cent of those on the most senior research pay grade. The inquiry will also look into the careers women move into when they leave the academy and what universities and the government can do to encourage them to remain. The deadline for written submissions is 3 September.

Academic publishing

Springer leaps into new hands

A controlling interest in the world’s second-largest academic publisher, Springer Science+Business Media, has been sold for €3.3 billion (£2.8 billion). The Berlin-based firm, which publishes more than 2,000 journals, has been bought by the private equity fund BC Partners. It was previously owned by another private equity firm, EQT Partners, and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, both of which will remain minority shareholders. The company has more than 7,000 employees and it reported sales of nearly €1 billion in 2012, when it published some 8,000 books. In a statement, BC Partners says it will look to expand Springer’s subscription journal business “as well as focusing on traditionally high-growth areas such as open access publishing and emerging markets”.

Scottish education bill

Declaration of independence

Legislation criticised for its potential to open the door to government interference in universities has been passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill was passed on 26 June, although with a number of amendments that have pleased the University and College Union. When the bill was announced in November, the UCU criticised plans that would grant ministers a say over the programmes that universities offered. Dave Anderson, the UCU Scotland president, said: “It is vitally important that our universities remain free from government interference and will be properly scrutinised. We are pleased that the revised bill now ensures both these things will happen.” A decision to endorse a UCU call for staff and student involvement in university governance to be properly recognised was “particularly welcome”, he said, adding: “It is essential that staff are involved in developing the agreements on how universities will encourage applications and support more students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.”.

Research misconduct

Stapel agrees to community service

Disgraced Dutch psychologist Diederik Stapel has agreed to carry out 120 hours of community service as punishment for faking large numbers of studies. The former professor of cognitive social psychology and dean of the School of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Tilburg University was being investigated by Dutch prosecutors for misuse of public funds after he admitted in 2011 to faking more than 50 papers. According to a statement by the Dutch public prosecutor’s office, the community service punishment – plus Stapel’s agreement to waive disability and sickness benefit he was owed – was appropriate given that he had not personally appropriated funding, had cooperated with the inquiries into his misconduct, had voluntarily given up his doctorate and had already suffered “drastic consequences”.

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