News in brief

December 20, 2012

Research malpractice

'Inadequate role model'

A prominent researcher who spends 20 per cent of her time at the University of Manchester has been reprimanded by the German Research Foundation (the DFG) for "gross dereliction of supervisory duties". Silvia Bulfone-Paus, professor of immunobiology at Manchester, has had 13 of her papers retracted after the Research Center Borstel in Germany, where she also holds a position, concluded in 2010 that image manipulation had occurred in her lab. It blamed two of her former postdoctoral researchers, but added that as their supervisor she bore "significant responsibility". The DFG has concluded that Professor Bulfone-Paus "did not fulfil the essential function of providing a good role model for her colleagues". It has issued her with a written reprimand and imposed a three-year ban on her submitting grant applications and reviewing those of others - which she has already voluntarily served. One of the postdocs, Elena Bulanova, has been handed an application ban of five years.

Modern languages

Tongue-tied miss out

Just 30 per cent of UK graduates can speak a language other than English well or fluently, according to a survey carried out by a Spanish telecommunications firm. Telefonica surveyed more than 1,000 recent graduates and found that of the 30 per cent who could speak another language, 31 per cent spoke French, 18 per cent German and 15 per cent Spanish. Six per cent spoke Mandarin and 3 per cent Portuguese. The company, which has a large presence in Latin America, said that the lack of Spanish and Portuguese speakers would prevent UK companies from taking advantage of burgeoning markets in South America. Fourteen per cent of those surveyed say they have missed out on a job because they did not speak another language.


Patent system no longer pending

Members of the European Parliament have approved the creation of a system that could cut the administrative costs of patenting by more than 80 per cent. MEPs voted to create the European Union patent on 11 December, ending 40 years of negotiations. The system will involve a single patent court, split across Paris, London and Munich, with just three official languages, as opposed to previously. The first EU patents, which will automatically apply across 25 of the member states, are expected to be granted in 2014. The lack of such a system has been cited as a hindrance to European competitiveness on the global stage.

Elite outreach

More 'Dux' take flight

A scheme offering selected pupils visits to Russell Group universities is to be expanded, schools minister David Laws has announced. Teachers select a Year 9 pupil as their "Dux" (Latin for leader), who is rewarded with a visit to one of the elite institutions. Mr Laws said he hoped to expand the programme significantly next year, with around 2,000 schools registering, up from the 750 involved in the inaugural scheme this year. The minister added: "I now want to see the scheme help raise the aspirations of more pupils, and I want more schools to take part and reward those who have performed to a very high level or shown real promise...A visit to one of our great universities is an eye-opening experience that should raise the sights of both pupils and teachers."


Last week's story about the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service's report on the 2012 admissions cycle elicited comments online. Prisonersdilemma said the fact that universities had chased after too few students meant the scenario was typical of the classic game-theory example where two people do not cooperate despite it being in their interests to do so: "Universities would be better off making offers to more students (by offering across a broader grade range). But the incentive is to offer only to the upper end."

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