Latest research news

November 27, 2002

Ministers may split funding for universities
Ministers are considering splitting the funding of higher education between research and teaching institutions. The controversial proposals being considered by Charles Clarke, education secretary, would in effect introduce a two-tier system similar to the one operating before 1992, when polytechnics became universities. While provision would be made to continue funding first-class, emerging research departments, ministers want to concentrate research funding to boost pay, improve laboratories and create critical mass of academic excellence. In 2002-03 the funding council for England distributed £940m to universities for research - three-quarters of it to the 20 top, research-led universities.
(Financial Times)

Industry warns on R&D spending in EU
Europe's biggest industrial companies expect to shift an increasing amount of their research and development spending outside the European Union because of what they see as "unattractive" investment conditions in the EU ranging from inadequate human resources and infrastructure, insufficient financial incentives and unwieldy regulation. A confidential note to EU government leaders from the European Round Table of Industrialists describes ambitious targets agreed this year by governments at the Barcelona European Council to raise R&D investment from 1.9 per cent of GDP to 3 per cent by 2010, as "unrealistic".
(Financial Times)

UK still lags behind in looking after environment
Britain still lags behind in key areas of pollution control, waste management, prosecuting environmental criminals and protection of important wildlife areas, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said yesterday. In the first significant report on Britain's environmental performance in eight years, the OECD said the government's record had shown improvements in many areas but much more needed to be done.

Cambridge primate research inquiry begins
The future of Britain as a leading centre for brain research will be tested this week when Cambridge University asks once again to be allowed to build an animal-testing facility in the city. The university begin its appeal yesterday, presenting arguments to a planning inspector. A number of anti-vivisectionist groups will also make their case to the hearing. (BBC, New Scientist)

GM rice can tough it out
A new genetically engineered variety of rice, which can grow in all types of conditions, has been developed by scientists in the United States and Korea. The researchers added sugar genes from a bacterium to create their improved plant. It is hoped the new crop will help farmers in developing countries be more productive on poor land, increasing yields by up to 20 per cent. (BBC)

Spider and fly swap roles
It seems suicidal. The fly zooms into the heart of a mass of spiders, and then to the centre of a web. This is cunning, not recklessness, ecologists have found. Twanging the web like a struggling insect, the fly lures the mother spider away from her clutch. The fly then nips in and lays a predatory grub on the eggs. (Nature)

Delegates tagged and tracked
Scientists often use radio tags to track elusive animals. But at last week's Supercomputing 2002 conference in Baltimore, Maryland, they used them on each other. The idea was to help researchers figure out where colleagues with similar interests were hanging out. Screens throughout the conference centre summarised the details, as did a website that delegates could access through a wireless network in the building. (Nature)

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