News in brief

November 26, 2009

Award scheme

Innovative social solutions

Universities are being encouraged to address social challenges in new and enterprising ways. UnLtd - the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and the Higher Education Funding Council for England have launched an award scheme to promote "social entrepreneurship" in higher education. The HE Social Entrepreneurship Awards, worth up to £15,000, will support ideas that could contribute to positive social change in areas such as education, the environment, fair trade, healthcare, micro-finance and social cohesion.

Carbon targets

Computer says green

The impact of ICT on the environment has both positive and negative aspects: for example, a videoconferencing service for a college uses electricity, but the environmental impact will be small compared with the carbon emissions caused by travel. A report launched by the Joint Information Systems Committee this week explores the steps universities can take to meet the Government's carbon targets with regard to computer technology. Low Carbon Computing: A View to 2050 and Beyond also warns universities that there will come a time when they will not be able to rely on the National Grid to meet their energy needs.

Impact assessment

Social science under scrutiny

A new study is being billed as the most thorough analysis yet of how academic research in the social sciences achieves economic and policy impact. The Higher Education Funding Council for England is to provide £2.9 million for the three-year study, to be carried out at the London School of Economics, Imperial College London and the University of Leeds. The project will produce handbooks for all higher education institutions on how to track and expand the impact of their work. The LSE's funding fell by more than 13 per cent after the research assessment exercise 2008, after which the institution decided to divert funding from social science and the humanities to science subjects.

Science and Technology Committee

How to lead in bioengineering

How the UK can remain globally competitive in bioengineering is the subject of a new inquiry. The investigation, which will cover stem-cell and genetic-modification research, was launched by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee this month. It has also launched a review of geoengineering, which will examine whether there is a need for international regulation in the field. It will be undertaken in conjunction with the US Congressional Committee on Science and Technology.

Career development

Helping hand for researchers

Views are being sought about how best to support the personal, professional and career development of researchers in higher education. Vitae, the national organisation for the development of research staff in universities, is consulting on its proposed researcher development framework via a survey. The framework describes the knowledge, skills, behaviour and personal qualities of researchers and sets out ways in which development can be encouraged. The closing date for responses to the consultation is 11 December.

Further information:


The musings of the Insecure Scholar that feature each week on prompted one reader to accuse him of being nothing but a "whinger".

The blogger, who every Tuesday details his life as an academic on a temporary contract, responded to the criticism by listing the upsides of his precarious position.

But he said: "When I did not have a family, I could revel in an insecure career. As I advance further into middle age, I yearn for security. This is where I stand: between the whingeing scholar and the smug scholar - between a rock and a hard place."


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