News in brief

October 15, 2009


Science bodies join forces

The Institute of Biology and the Biosciences Federation have united to form the Society of Biology after members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move. It is hoped that the single organisation, which now has more than 80,000 members, will provide more effective representation for the biosciences. The merger comes as three UK computing organisations also join forces. The British Computer Society, the UK Computer Research Committee and the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing have formed the Academy of Computing.


London Met re-elects governors

The chair and vice-chair of the board of governors at London Metropolitan University have been re-elected until September 2010. Chair Peter Anwyl and vice-chair Abdul Rahim were re-elected, while Sir Michael Snyder, formerly chair of London Met's audit committee, was elected as vice-chair. The appointments follow a turbulent period for the university, which has been asked to repay £36.5 million overpaid to it as a result of inaccurate student-data returns. The governors were criticised over the matter in a Higher Education Funding Council for England-commissioned report released this year. A review commissioned by London Met is due to report on the issue next month.

Legal action

Lecturer cleared of fraud charges

A lecturer who resigned after managers threatened to investigate claims that she was committing benefit fraud has been cleared of wrongdoing in court. Helena Lunt, formerly senior lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University's Centre for Public Health, won an unfair dismissal case against her employer earlier this year. The Department for Work and Pensions investigated her on suspicion of fraudulently claiming disability benefit, and the employment tribunal described the university's threat to carry out its own investigation as "wholly inappropriate". She was found not guilty of benefit fraud at Liverpool Crown Court last week.


Niche areas need protection

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council must protect strategically important and vulnerable niche areas of research, an independent panel has said. The BBSRC Skills and Careers Strategy Panel identified four areas at risk: whole animal physiology; industrial biotechnologies; plant and agricultural sciences; and systematics and taxonomy.

Research funding

'Dangers' of business cash

The rise in industrial funding of university science is compromising its quality and reliability, as well as inhibiting research that could deliver wider benefits to society, it has been claimed. In a new report, Science and the Corporate Agenda, the pressure group Scientists for Global Responsibility says that the policy to encourage closer links between businesses and universities has created a "distinctly unbalanced" relationship. It warns that commercially funded studies are often biased towards favourable results and that commercial-confidentiality agreements are impeding the free flow of data.

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The pre-eminence of English-speaking universities in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings proved a talking point among online readers. Responding to those who questioned the supremacy of US and UK institutions in the top 200, "Marco" writes: "I would agree that the Anglo-Saxon dominance is to a large extent self-fulfilling, although not based on misperception: the best pupils want to go to the best universities, which therefore turn out the best graduates and are voted as being the best by employers. Nothing in that chain is false."


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