News in brief - 13 February 2014

February 13, 2014

Animals in research
Pledge to improve welfare with 3Rs

The government will use the high international standing of UK science to pressure other countries to cut reliance on animal research. The pledge was made by universities and science minister David Willetts at the 7 February launch of the government’s delivery plan on replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research – known as the 3Rs. He said key objectives included improving animal welfare standards internationally, and encouraging countries such as China to relax the requirement to test all cosmetics on animals. But Mr Willetts declined to commit to an overall reduction in animal procedures in the UK, saying that the number would depend on “patterns of scientific advance”.

University of Bristol
Sir Eric Thomas bids farewell

The vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol is to retire after 14 years in the role. Sir Eric Thomas, who led the sector’s representative body Universities UK between 2011 and 2013, will step down from Bristol in August 2015. In a message sent to students on 7 February, Sir Eric says he believes “it will be the right time for a new leader to take Bristol on to the next stage of its development”. Sir Eric graduated in medicine from Newcastle University in 1976. He trained as an obstetrician and gynaecologist and worked at both Newcastle and the University of Sheffield. In 1991 he was appointed professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, where he later became dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Biological Sciences.

Open access publishing
Austrian pact will pay dividends

A publisher has signed an accord with Austrian universities and funders to cut subscription prices as the take-up of gold open access rises. Under the agreement, struck between the Institute of Physics’ publishing arm, the Austrian Science Fund, the Austrian Academic Consortium and the Austrian Central Library for Physics at the University of Vienna, the Austrian Science Fund will cover article fees for every author it funds to publish open access with IOP Publishing. In return, the publisher has agreed to lower the cost of accessing its journals for participating members of the Austrian Academic Consortium in proportion to the extra funding it receives from article fees.

Industrial biotechnology
Strathclyde leads Scottish centre

A new innovation centre for industrial biotechnology, hosted by the University of Strathclyde, was formally launched last week at an event in Edinburgh. It is hoped it will play a key role in helping Scotland’s industrial biotechnology-related turnover to rise to £3 billion by 2030, and create 1,500 jobs in the next five years. Strathclyde will coordinate the centre but it will incorporate all 13 Scottish institutions that are involved in the research area. Industrial biotechnology is the use of biological processes and substances to create products such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, materials and energy.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

Last week’s cover feature looking at the reasons for the California Institute of Technology’s stellar performance in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings prompted a big reaction among our Twitter followers last week. @thesiswhisperer said the article made the university sound like “an academic nirvana”, while @LizMorrish expressed mock surprise that Caltech “seems to regard academics as an asset”. “How bizarre!” she said. “Surely they’re an encumbrance and liability like they are in UK.” @DPCressey was impressed by the fact that Caltech staff “have won a Nobel every 3.8 years on average”, while @Matt1nnes appeared to have more weighty matters in mind. “My recollection is that Caltech staff club does the best breakfast. Ever,” he said.

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