News in brief - 17 July 2014

July 17, 2014

Peer review misconduct
60 retractions at Sage journal

The publisher Sage has retracted 60 articles from its Journal of Vibration and Control after discovering a “peer review and citation ring” revolving around a researcher in Taiwan. According to a statement by the publisher, a 14-month investigation revealed that Peter Chen of National Pingtung University of Education, had “created various aliases” in its manuscript submissions system using different email addresses, and “on at least one occasion” had reviewed one of his own papers using a false name. “Sage scrutinised further the co-authors of and reviewers selected for Peter Chen’s papers [and found that] these names appeared to form part of a peer review ring”. All the retracted papers have at least one author or reviewer implicated in the ring. The university told Sage that Chen had resigned in February.

National Physical Laboratory
New partners announced

The universities of Surrey and Strathclyde have been selected as the new academic partners of the National Physical Laboratory. David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said that the institutions’ joint bid represented the best prospects of meeting his objective to develop the laboratory, which was previously run by private outsourcing company Serco, into a “world-leading national measurement institute” by strengthening “both fundamental research and engagement with business”. Surrey and Strathclyde’s vice-chancellors will sit on the laboratory’s board, but it will remain government-owned. A postgraduate institute will be established at its site at Teddington in southwest London, where academics from the universities of Cambridge and Huddersfield will also carry out research.

University applications
Ucas records 4% rise for 2014

University applications have risen by 4 per cent, Ucas has confirmed. According to statistics for the 2014 cycle released by the admissions body on 11 July, 659,030 people submitted applications to study for a full-time undergraduate course by 30 June – the final cut-off point for Ucas’ main applications route. Any applications submitted after 30 June are considered late and will be directed to clearing. In total, there were 23,120 more applications in 2014 compared with the same point last year – which meant that the university applications total was the second highest year on record at this point in the cycle. Of the additional applications, 15,130 were from students based in England, 2,090 came from those in the European Union (excluding UK students), while an extra 4,190 people applied through Ucas from non-EU countries.

Exam howlers
The winner, and no mistake

This year’s winner of the Times Higher Education exam howlers competition is John Milliken, lecturer in education at the University of Ulster, for his entry about a student’s claim that “the [hole in the] ozone layer was caused by arseholes”. “He probably meant aerosols, but then…maybe not,” said Dr Milliken, who will receive a magnum of champagne. His second student blooper from this year’s marking season – that “in future all cars [will] be fitted with Catholic converters” – also proved popular with THE’s newsroom, as did the view that Google is “one of the two main suppositories of data in the world”, which was submitted by Verity Black, information technology programme director at the University of Sheffield. Thanks to all the academics who submitted entries.

Follow Times Higher Education on Twitter

A University and College Union campaign to get students asking questions such as “what is the student:staff ratio at the university” and “does the university pay the living wage to all staff it employs” when attending open days had our Twitter followers suggesting questions that they felt should be asked. “How many of the libraries u are so keen to show me are scheduled for closure or cutbacks in next 3 yrs?” was @Dymvue’s suggestion, while @duncanrobinson wanted to know “How many seminars/lectures will be taken by grad students, rather than staff?” However, @Aremay pleaded: “As someone who volunteers at university open days, please don’t ask me these questions: I don’t know the answers.”

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