Latest research news

March 16, 2005

Scottish universities sign open access deal
Scottish university heads have agreed to make their academic research more freely available to one another in a bid to bypass the costly fees for publishing in journals. The new Scottish Declaration on Open Access is the latest in a series of challenges by universities to break the stranglehold of the major academic publishers which costs taxpayers millions of pounds a year. Publicly funded universities have to pay to have their academics' work assessed for publication, then again to read the journals. The declaration commits each of its 16 university signatories to setting up online libraries of research findings and doctorate papers which all academics can access.
The Guardian

Why women put up with snoring - and men don't
Women are "too meek" when it comes to their men snoring - often missing more than five hours’ sleep a week because they do not want to wake up their partner from their slumber, according to a new report. But while British women suffer in silence, men prod and poke their wives to wake them up at the fist sign of a snore, scientists found.
The Scotsman

Year's paid maternity leave would save lives of babies, says study
Extending paid maternity leave for new mothers significantly reduces infant mortality, according to a groundbreaking international study. Research examining the effect of maternity leave policies on child health outcomes in 18 industrialised countries from 1969 to 2000 found every 10 weeks of extra maternity leave cuts the infant mortality rate by 2.6 per cent. Boosting paid leave for new mothers in the UK from the current six months to a full year would cut the infant death rate by 6.8 per cent, according to the study.
The Guardian

Molecular methods reveal more airborne microbes
Modern molecular methods can reveal abundant airborne microbes where conventional culture methods used to assess cleanliness do not, say researchers. Their conclusion is based on a study of a hospital therapy pool which made nine lifeguards sick. The team is now calling for the use of the molecular techniques to ensure safety in healthcare, describing existing methods as "seriously inadequate".
New Scientist

Hopes raised for nerve disease cure within ten years
A treatment for a common form of motor neuron disease could be available within ten years using a new technique that can switch off the faulty genes responsible in mice, scientists said yesterday. Genetic forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the wasting condition that afflicts Professor Stephen Hawking, could be treatable using an advanced gene-silencing technique called RNA interference, new research on mice has suggested. At present there is no cure for any form of motor neuron disease, in which the nerve cells that control the muscles degenerate and die.
The Times

Bad news - we are way past our 'extinct by' date
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice, wrote Robert Frost. But whatever is to be our fate, it is now overdue. After analysing the eradication of millions of ancient species, scientists have found that a mass extinction is due any moment now. Their research has shown that every 62 million years - plus or minus 3 million years - creatures are wiped from the planet's surface in massive numbers. And given that the last great extinction occurred 65m years ago, when dinosaurs and thousands of other creatures abruptly disappeared, the study suggests humanity faces a fairly pressing danger. Even worse, scientists have no idea about its source.
The Guardian

Junk medicine: democracy in science
Critics of modern science argue that it suffers from a democratic deficit. The direction of research, they contend, is set by out-of-touch experts in ivory towers. Scientists embark on work in genetic engineering or nanotechnology without asking whether the public has any interest in, need for, or misgivings about developments that might result. Funding decisions are guided by narrow technical interests that support a status quo instead of a spirit of public service.
The Times

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