Latest research news

June 4, 2003

Elite researchers increase lead
Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and Imperial College London, show no sign of slowing down in their race away from the rest of the sector when it comes to research funding. Latest figures on university income for 2001-02 published last week by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, together with grant allocations from the funding councils, show that total research funding in the UK rose by 7.3 per cent on 2000-01 to just over £3.5 billion. For the first time, all four in the golden triangle have broken the £200 million barrier and the gaps between them are now almost non-existent.
(Guardian, Financial Times)

Public debate on future of GM crops inadequate
The public debate on the future of genetically modified crops in Britain is inadequate, eight leading organisations have warned. The staging of the debate - due to be launched in Birmingham today - was described as a "catalogue of errors from start to finish" by the Consumers' Association, which said the government had only paid lip service to consumer concerns. The debate, organised by the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission - the GM watchdog, is being staged around six regional conferences.
(Financial Times)

Europe goes to Mars
Europe's first mission to another planet is on its way. A signal sent by the space craft to ground control confirmed what scientists had hoped - the launch had been successful and the probe was on the correct path for Mars. The rocket blasted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan at 1845 BST (1745 GMT) on Monday. It will take six months for the orbiter and its lander passenger to reach the Red Planet. Beagle is expected to be on the Martian surface at 0254 GMT on 25 December. 

'Columbus bones' for DNA tests
Spanish scientists delved into a bronze tomb thought to contain the remains of Christopher Columbus yesterday, hoping to solve the mystery of where the explorer's remains really lie. The Dominican Republic and Spain both claim to have the remains, and last year a Spanish team proposed that they should submit both sets for DNA tests, along with the remains of Columbus's son. Scientists have until Friday to extract the Spanish specimens for the tests, when the remains must be returned to Seville cathedral. The Dominican Republic is still considering whether to allow DNA tests on its remains.

Geiger counter in every human revealed
How much damage does cosmic radiation do to frequent flyers? Is depleted uranium from shells causing cancers in former war zones such as Kosovo and Iraq? The discovery that certain kinds of radiation leave a distinctive pattern of damage in our cells could help answer these questions. "If this works, we'll be able to take a measurement and see the lifetime exposure in that person," says David Brenner of Columbia University in New York. "Often there is no other reliable record of individual exposure."
(New Scientist)

Great green barrier planned for reef
The Great Barrier Reef's protected areas could increase sevenfold under conservation plans announced by the Australian government yesterday. The proposals would ban shipping and commercial fishing from a third of the marine park, which covers 134,000 square miles - an area larger than the British Isles. At present, protected "green zones" comprise only about 4.6 per cent of it.

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