News in brief

December 3, 2009

University governance

Cambridge appoints new head

The head of the Medical Research Council will become the University of Cambridge's next vice-chancellor. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz has been chief executive of the MRC since October 2007, and was previously deputy rector of Imperial College London. Born in Wales, he studied medicine at the Welsh National School of Medicine and was knighted in 2001 for his research into vaccines, including the development of one to prevent cervical cancer. Subject to the approval of the Regent House, Cambridge's governing body, he will succeed the current vice-chancellor, Alison Richard, on 1 October 2010.

Scientific advice

MPs call for principled input

Academics have been asked for their views on the principles that should guide the treatment of independent scientific advice provided to the Government. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee made the call after senior scientists issued a statement on the matter following the Home Office's dismissal in October of David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The Government plans to draw up its own principles by the end of the year.

Economic downturn

Down telescopes?

The UK is almost certain to pull out of the international partnership backing the Gemini telescopes in 2012 because of the financial crisis. The telescopes, which provide almost total coverage of the northern and southern skies, are based in Hawaii and Chile. A final decision is expected early in 2010.

Research councils

'Space weather' is Nerc's domain

Funding for the branch of science that studies "space weather" has been transferred to the Natural Environment Research Council. The move for solar-terrestrial physics research is the result of a recommendation made in Research Councils UK's Review of UK Physics in 2008. Under the plans, Nerc assumes responsibility for funding the study of the Earth's upper atmosphere and its interaction with the Sun. The Science and Technology Facilities Council retains responsibility for funding space-based facilities, missions and related exploitation, and all solar-terrestrial physics research that is not related to the Earth. Funds of about £2.9 million are being transferred from STFC to Nerc owing to the move.

Mission groups

Christian values

Universities and colleges with church foundations have formally established themselves as the Cathedrals Group. Members of the group, formerly known as the Council of Church Universities and Colleges, have signed memorandums of agreement and appointed a part-time policy officer. The Cathedrals Group is headed by Pamela Taylor, principal of Newman University College.

Graduate employment

Midwives stalked by job fears

Most final-year midwifery students do not have a job to go to when they graduate. In a survey of students released at the Royal College of Midwives' annual conference in Manchester last week, 80 per cent say they have not found work, and 86 per cent think the student loan and bursary system is inadequate.


The Government's new Digital Economy Bill is doomed to failure, two academics argue.

Joss Hands and Jussi Parikka, who teach at Anglia Ruskin University's Cultures of Digital Economy Institute, say the Bill focuses mostly on infrastructure and copyright, and is framed almost exclusively to protect perceived business interests.

They argue that in the end it will fail business, too, because it will undermine long-term innovation and creativity in the digital arena. Add your views online now.


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