News in brief

January 17, 2013

Open-access policy

Lords host Finch and friends

The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords has launched a short inquiry into the government's and Research Councils UK's open-access policies. Issues to be investigated include support for universities to pay article fees, whether RCUK's required embargo periods under the "green" open-access model are the right ones, and the level of engagement with publishers, universities and learned societies in the formulation of RCUK's policy. The first hearing was held on 15 January with Dame Janet Finch, who chaired the working group that produced the government-endorsed report on which RCUK's policy is based. A further session will be held on 29 January, with witnesses including universities and science minister David Willetts and RCUK chair Rick Rylance. The committee has not issued an open call for evidence but targeted "key stakeholders". Research Libraries UK said it was "odd" that libraries had not been approached.

Research councils

Fitness assessments

The government has launched a "triennial" review of the future of the research councils as part of the coalition's commitment to review public bodies. In a written parliamentary statement published on 9 January, universities and science minister David Willetts said it was "not a review of the policy relating to funding in research, to which the government remain[s] committed", but will assess how councils' functions "contribute to the core business of [the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills]" and "where the conclusion is that a particular function is still needed, examine how this function might best be delivered". He said the review's aim was to "increase accountability".

Graduate recruitment

Stagnation in the talent pool

The UK's top 100 degree-level employers recruited fewer graduates than expected in 2012, while expected increases in the number of vacancies this year will still leave recruitment figures 11 per cent lower than pre-recession levels. Those are among the findings of The Graduate Market in 2013 study, carried out by High Fliers Research, which shows that graduate recruitment stalled in 2012, with entry-level vacancies dropping 0.8 per cent on the previous year. Starting salaries are expected to remain unchanged in 2013 for an unprecedented fourth year, at a median of £29,000. But the recruitment outlook for 2013 is rosier, the report says, with employers expecting to boost graduate recruitment by 2.7 per cent.

Science/industry links

Cold cash for fast IT friendships

The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance - whose members include the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen and Dundee - has secured almost £500,000 from the Scottish Funding Council to help more than 70 computer scientists develop links with business. Initiatives include early career industry fellowships for collaborative projects, three-month team-based industrial placements, and SICSA Elevate, which gives young researchers a chance to accelerate promising ideas into business start-ups, transfers or licensing agreements. Aaron Quigley, SICSA's director of knowledge exchange and professor of human computer interaction at St Andrews, hopes such schemes will help academics "shape their careers and exchange their knowledge with industry".

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The revelation in last week's issue that Russell Group vice-chancellors' salaries are up by more than £10,000 - thanks in several cases to reductions in pension contributions - had readers' tongues wagging. "VCs are getting compensated for changes to government taxation and pensions policies, whereas the rest of us just have to lump it," RB said. "What will happen when the flat state pension is brought in and the contracted-out rates of (national insurance) for members of defined-benefit pensions schemes are ended? Will we get a pay raise to compensate for that? Of course not."

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