News in brief - 10 October 2013

October 10, 2013

Open access
Spoof, where is thy sting?

The journal Science has said the acceptance for publication of a spoof scientific paper by a large proportion of open-access journals in a “sting operation” had exposed “the dark side of open-access publishing”. The paper, which was “riddled with obvious errors and contradictions”, was put together by one of the journal’s reporters and submitted to 304 peer- reviewed open-access journals. It was accepted by 157 and rejected by 98. Only 36 recognised the paper’s flaws, although 16 of those still accepted it. However, open-access advocates have criticised Science for not submitting the paper to subscription journals, too. On his blog, Public Library of Science co-founder Michael Eisen writes that there is “every reason to believe that a large number of them would also have accepted the paper”. He adds: “The real story is that a fair number of journals [that] actually carried out peer review still accepted the paper, and the lesson people should take home from this story is not that open access is bad, but that peer review is a joke.”

Students with disabilities
Access still denied

Students with disabilities are calling on universities to do more to help them access campus facilities. Many disabled students are unable to use lecture theatres and libraries, according to a report by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers group. Some institutions are also failing to signpost vital information required by students with disabilities, such as details about accessible accommodation or how wheelchair users can navigate campuses. The study, titled University Challenge, published on 3 October, uses information submitted by disabled students at 100 UK universities. It says that only half of the institutions have made their libraries and teaching rooms fully accessible to students with disabilities.

Magic number for FutureLearn

Three more universities - two from England and one from New Zealand - have signed up to FutureLearn, the UK’s massive open online course provider. The University of Auckland becomes the platform’s third international partner, joining Australia’s Monash University and Trinity College Dublin, while the universities of Liverpool and Newcastle have also joined. In addition, telecommunications operator BT has struck a deal with FutureLearn to sponsor the development of professional development courses in collaboration with the platform’s partner universities. Details of the courses the new partners will offer have yet to be announced.

Academic transfer
Not far to go for Imperial unit

Imperial College London has moved its Translation Studies Unit to University College London. In February, the institution announced a consultation on the unit’s future after a review of its activities found they were “not integral to the delivery of Imperial’s academic strategy”. The move to the UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society - which took place last week - means the unit has avoided closure. A petition earlier this year to save it attracted more than 6,500 signatories. The unit is the second to transfer from Imperial’s former department of humanities, which was disbanded last year. In December, Imperial announced that its Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine would be transferred to King’s College London, a move completed in August.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

A University and College Union poll showing that more than 10 per cent of academics at eight UK universities could face redundancy if they fail to meet their institution’s research excellence framework expectations got people talking. @zerohoursuni said it was “no wonder so much drivel is published” in the face of “publish-or-be-sacked threats”, while @martincoward said the survey showed that fear was a “common management tactic”. But @ProfDaveAndress tweeted: “It is rather baffling why one would expect REF underperformance at a research-intensive uni NOT to have consequences.”

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