Statistics to dominate research assessment
Radical changes to the way British academic research is assessed and funded were announced today by Bill Rammell, the higher education minister. The elaborate research assessment exercise, in which the work of every active researcher in British universities is assessed by 67 different subject panels ranging from astrophysics to art history, will be carried out for the last time in 2008. After that, the quality of research - and hence the amount of funding universities receive from the Government - will be judged largely on the basis of statistics such as grant income and contracts. Inevitably, there will be winners and losers under the new system, Mr Rammell warned.
Alzheimer vaccine 'effective and safe'
A DNA vaccine has successfully reduced the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in mice. The result could signal the first preventative and restorative treatment vaccine for Alzheimer’s without serious side effects. Alzheimer’s disease progresses as small proteins called amyloid beta peptides are overproduced, forming plaques in the brain that interfere with its function. Memory loss and mental deterioration follow. A vaccination approach – getting the immune system to clean up the plaques – has been considered the most promising way to tackle the disease, but its success has been limited, until now.
New Scientist, The Daily Telegraph
Cancer cash for university to study care
Edinburgh University is one of a number of institutions to benefit from two cancer research grants totalling nearly £5 million. The university will receive cash from the National Cancer Research Institute to carry out research into cancer care. The university is part of the Complex Interventions: Assessment, Trials and Implementation of Services group, which will use the grant to research supportive and palliative care for cancer sufferers.
Climate change may have helped evolution
Climate change may not all be bad news. According to a study published yesterday, a dramatic change in climate in Africa more than 70,000 years ago could have been the engine for the evolution and dispersal of the human race to Asia and Europe. Professor Paul Mellars of Cambridge University points out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that at around the same time as humans migrated out of Africa, there were changes in climate which decreased temperatures and humidity and boosted the size of the Kalahari and Sahara deserts.
The Daily Telegraph
Healthy £4m boost to help Edinburgh stem cell centre
A new centre for stem cell research being built at Edinburgh University has received a £4 million funding boost that will allow it to attract more researchers. The Centre for Regenerative Medicine, to be based at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France, will include the most advanced technologies now available in stem cell research, development and manufacture. The university and the Scottish Funding Council have chipped in £2 million each. SFC chief executive Roger McClure said: "There is a critical mass of world-class stem cell researchers at the University of Edinburgh.
Drinking lots of coffee saves liver from alcohol damage, research finds
Drinking as little as one cup of coffee a day could help protect you from liver disease caused by alcohol, according to research published today. People who drink one cup of coffee are 20 per cent less likely to have alcoholic cirrhosis than those who abstain from doing so. And the protective effect increases with the more coffee you drink: people who drink two or three cups a day are 40 per cent less likely to contract cirrhosis, while those who drink four or more cups are 80 per cent less likely to suffer the disease.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph
New drug to end brittle bone misery for elderly
A new drug for osteoporosis is so effective it can prevent fractures in older women. New trial results show that the drug, which stops bone loss and encourages the growth of new reduced fractures in women aged 80 and over by a third. It's the first osteoporosis treatment to show a quick and long-term drop in fractures in women in this age group. In some cases, women had healthier bones after the treatment than they had had for years. Researchers say the results show it is never too late to change the course of the disease.
The Daily Mail