News in brief

February 4, 2010

Knowledge transfer

KT pays but IP is a barrier

Investment in research and knowledge exchange pays off, according to research. A report compiled for the Higher Education Funding Council for England states that investment produces "consistent returns", with a 10 per cent rise in research income per academic yielding the same percentage increase in the number of exploitable ideas generated. Universities' attempts to encourage staff to exploit their knowledge were also beneficial. "Intellectual property incentive schemes can have a positive effect on academic productivity in terms of producing commercialisable ideas," the report says. The Intellectual Property Regime and its Implications for Knowledge Exchange is the second in a series of reports for Hefce on its funding for third-stream activity. It says that half of academics are engaged in projects with businesses where intellectual property issues could arise. Despite this, there is still no best practice model describing how universities should organise and manage the exploitation of IP. Of those academics working with business, almost a fifth said IP was a barrier to knowledge exchange.

Libel law

Scientists to have their say

Scientists will be represented on a government body looking at the possible reform of the UK's libel laws. The working group set up by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, will include Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, chief executive of the Medical Research Council and the next vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and Tracey Brown, managing director of the charity Sense about Science. The group will "consider whether the law of libel in England and Wales needs reform, and if so to make recommendations as to solutions". It will be chaired by Rowena Collins Rice, chief legal officer at the Ministry of Justice, and is due to make its recommendations by mid-March.

Northern Ireland

Steering group will not waver

The chair of a review into higher education in Northern Ireland has promised it will not be disrupted by political wrangling over the future of the devolved administration. Sir Graeme Davies, vice-chancellor of the University of London, is chairing the steering group leading the review into the future of the Northern Irish sector. The 15-strong group will digest the findings of five separate expert groups, covering the economy, society and people, learning, internationalisation, and finance and governance. Sir Graeme pledged that the strategy developed by the review would be useful to whatever form of government was tasked with implementing it. A separate review into student funding in Northern Ireland will be published this month.

Wales

Bind us together

The three organisations tasked with monitoring the quality of Welsh universities have signed an agreement binding them more closely together. A "tripartite memorandum of understanding" has been signed by the Quality Assurance Agency, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Bill Maxwell, chief inspector of education in Wales. The agreement aims to cut red tape and promote the sharing of expertise. Meanwhile, universities have submitted written evidence to the Welsh Assembly Finance Committee warning that planned funding cuts will have "unintended consequences". Higher Education Wales told the committee that Wales' future prosperity depended on universities as it recovers from the recession.

ONLINE NOW

Tara Brabazon's "How not to write a PhD thesis" is written from her experience as a supervisor and an examiner.

Examining a PhD, she writes, is both a pleasure and a curse: "It is a joy to nurture, support and help the academy's next generation, but it is a dreadful moment when an examiner realises that a script is so below standard that there are three options: straight fail, award an MPhil or hope that the student shows enough spark in the viva voce to skid through to major corrections and a full re-examination."

Read her tips in full online.

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