News in brief

September 24, 2009

Public engagement

Cut out the 'mixed messages'

British academics are confused by "mixed messages" from funding bodies and universities about how best to communicate their research findings, according to a new report. A study from the Research Information Network and the Joint Information Systems Committee, released last week, highlights the need for more consistent and effective guidance from such bodies if they wish to encourage researchers to publish and disseminate their work through channels other than scholarly journals. Communicating Knowledge: How and Why UK Researchers Publish and Disseminate Their Findings was compiled from an online survey, focus groups' input and interviews with researchers.

Science policy

Europe to gain chief adviser

A Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) is to be appointed for Europe. The announcement was made by Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, who told the European Parliament that the CSA would provide scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery. The news was welcomed by the UK's CSA, John Beddington, who said: "Following President Barack Obama's unprecedented appointment of scientific talent to his Administration, it is right that the European Union is acting to ensure that it has the right structures in place to make certain the very best scientific evidence available is fed into the European policymaking process."


MP defends IUSS conclusions

An MP has described the sector's response to a controversial report about standards in the sector as "astonishing". In a heated exchange with Peter Williams, chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency, Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP and member of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, said attempts to undermine the Students and Universities report were based on "spurious nonsense". Mr Williams, who will soon retire, retaliated by saying that the cross-party committee of MPs "had its thesis in mind before it met anyone" and ignored the evidence. Mr Williams, who stressed that he was speaking in a personal capacity, also criticised committee members for their poor attendance record at the inquiry's evidence-gathering sessions. The two were sharing a panel at the National Union of Students' recent "Quality Matters for Students" conference.

STEM recruitment

Focus on women, study advises

Efforts to recruit students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) should focus on women, a vice-chancellor has said. Universities UK's annual Patterns report, published this week, shows that the proportion of female engineering students in the UK lags behind most of Europe. In 2006, 19 per cent of engineering students were female, putting the UK 21st out of 28 countries, behind Romania (29 per cent) and Bulgaria (32 per cent). Geoffrey Crossick, warden of Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of the introduction to the UUK report, said: "One solution to the problem is to get more women studying engineering. Poor recruitment into STEM is often seen as a supply-side problem - that universities are responsible - when we know the real issue is that students aren't choosing to study these subjects earlier in their education."

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