News in brief

December 18, 2008

Dumbing down

Appeal falls on deaf ears

An academic discussion group set up to examine "dumbing down" in academia appeared this week to be facing the threat of closure because of a lack of interest. The email discussion group operated by the Joint Information Systems Committee is intended to allow academics to share and discuss research into issues of quality in higher education. However, a Jiscmail administrator warns members that requests for someone to come forward and offer to lead the thread have fallen on deaf ears. The email warns: "The list will need an owner if it is to continue, and if one cannot be found, then we will unfortunately have to close the list."

Research misconduct

A united front against fraud

European research organisations have agreed to work more closely to tackle scientific fraud and other misconduct in science. After a recent conference in Madrid, members of a new Research Integrity Forum of the European Science Foundation, which includes Research Councils UK (RCUK), agreed to share information and good practice, and develop a code of conduct that could be used as a template for national codes. RCUK recently published a draft code on good research conduct. The consultation is now closed.

Study of ageing

US-UK collaboration launched

A £4 million collaborative programme of research into ageing has been launched by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the US National Institute on Aging. Joint UK-US research projects on the biology of ageing are now sought. The deadline to register interest is 10 February 2009.


Knowledge transfer

Business wants broader relations

Universities are adopting too narrow an approach to knowledge transfer, the Council for Industry and Higher Education warns in a report spelling out exactly how businesses want to work with academics. The report, Universities, Business and Knowledge Exchange, says that focusing solely on patenting or licensing inventions "can too easily ignore many of the varied ways" in which universities and businesses influence commercial innovation and performance. Some of the greatest challenges and difficulties "are concerned with absorbing and embedding knowledge within business", it says. The report finds that industry prefers to build relationships between the two parties rather than draw up contracts. In some contracts, universities seem to be more interested in pursuing their own agenda than in adding value, it says. Businesses value the academic perspective, but "the effectiveness of the relationship depends on how far the general can be translated and made specific for a particular business context", the report says.


Two images of the library of what is now the Royal Commonwealth Society, printed in the issue of 4 December (page 36), were reproduced by kind permission of the Syndics of Cambridge University Library. We apologise for omitting this credit.

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