News in brief

April 15, 2010

Research

Quantitative is qualitative

Sociologists in the UK must work harder to use quantitative research methods in their work, according to a review of the discipline's standing on the world stage. The report by the Economic and Social Research Council says that sociology in the UK is of an excellent standard, but that it needs to widen its expertise in research methods to maintain its position. The study, International Benchmarking Review of UK Sociology, says: "The position (and tradition) of UK sociology as a 'third culture' and the prevalence of a 'mixed-methods' approach call for additional efforts to bring quantitative research methods into closer alignment with institutional and state-of-the-art standards."

Wales

HEFCW: reach out to refugees

Universities should encourage asylum seekers and refugees to enrol by supporting them financially, Welsh funding chiefs have said. In a letter to institutions, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales says that although 60 per cent of refugees in the country hold a further or higher education qualification, participation rates once they arrive in Wales are low. Barriers to entry include lack of information and access to funds, as asylum seekers are ineligible for student support and often face overseas fees. HEFCW says universities should provide advice to help them apply and offer financial support.

Student fees

Sound of silence

The University of Leeds has refused to release the Russell Group's response to the ongoing review of fees and funding led by Lord Browne of Madingley on the grounds that it would not be in the public interest to do so. Following a Freedom of Information Act request by Times Higher Education, a spokesman for the university, which is led by Russell Group chairman Michael Arthur, said the views of the group should be made public only when the review concludes. "There may be a chilling effect on open debate and exchange if members feel threatened by the possible premature disclosure of information that they regard as sensitive," he said. Other mission groups have published their submissions to the review.

Academic publishing

Our way or the highway

The editor of a journal who is locked in a battle with the publisher Elsevier has been told that he will be sacked next month unless he implements changes imposed from above. Bruce Charlton, editor of Medical Hypotheses, has been fighting Elsevier's plans to change the journal's current model, under which he chooses papers according to how interesting or radical they are, and implement peer review instead. Professor Charlton has been told that he will be sacked on 11 May unless he agrees to Elsevier's plans.

http://bit.ly/cdacxL

Funding cuts

Don't panic, says ratings agency

The UK academy will prove resilient to funding cuts, a leading credit ratings agency has predicted. In a report to the sector, Moody's Investors Service rejects "warnings of crisis" and says that it "expects the UK higher education sector to keep its strength in the long term". It cites growth in the international student market, global collaboration on research and the "tight regulation and oversight" of the Higher Education Funding Council for England as reasons for its confidence.

http://bit.ly/9QS6zq

ONLINE NOW

Last week's story about the research paper with 144 authors - equating to an average of 36 words per person - sparked a debate among online readers. "It's not uncommon to find long lists of authors in experimental physics. That's simply because these experiments are incredibly complex and draw upon many technologies," says Bee.

But Rory writes: "To justify authorship, one has to have made a substantive contribution ... The 'I'll put your name on mine if you put my name on yours' stunt is unacceptable."

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