News in brief

April 29, 2010

Discrimination guidance

'Not so liberal' attitude warning

Higher education institutions should not allow assumptions about their "liberal culture" to mask the need to address discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and students, according to new guidance. The Equality Challenge Unit, the higher education equality body, has published guidance titled Advancing LGB Equality: Improving the Experience of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Staff and Students in Higher Education. It was developed after research in 2009 found significant homophobia and discrimination on campus.

Language degree closures

'Retrograde' cuts condemned

Linguists have rounded on a university that has announced it is closing undergraduate degrees in French, Spanish and English as a foreign language. The courses will no longer be offered at the University of Wolverhampton from the start of the next academic year. It blamed the closures on a lack of student demand. Lucille Cairns, president of the Association of University Professors and Heads of French, has written to Wolverhampton's vice-chancellor, Caroline Gipps, expressing "deep concern" at the decision, which she said was "entirely retrograde".

http://bit.ly/aOafTC

Academic freedom

HIV-Aids denier investigated

A scholar who questioned the link between HIV and Aids is being investigated by his university following allegations of "unacceptable conduct". The University of California, Berkeley is investigating whether Peter Duesberg, professor of molecular and cell biology, violated university policies when he submitted an article denying the link between HIV and Aids to the journal Medical Hypotheses. The article, "HIV-Aids hypothesis out of touch with South African Aids - A new perspective", argues there is "as yet no proof that HIV causes Aids". In a letter to Professor Duesberg, seen by Times Higher Education, Berkeley says it has received allegations that submitting the paper amounted to "unacceptable conduct".

http://bit.ly/ckeK8P

Scottish higher education policy

Trade unions support review

The Scottish Trades Union Congress is to back the University and College Union Scotland in campaigning for a review of higher education in Scotland. A motion moved by UCU Scotland at its annual congress in Dundee calls for the STUC to press the education secretary for an independent review. Lesley McIntosh, UCU Scotland president, said: "We need to promote public understanding of university research and education, and make the case for an increased share of funding in the next spending review."

Royal Society

Nomination for president

Sir Paul Nurse has been nominated as the next president of the Royal Society. The selection of the Nobel laureate was agreed by the society's council last week. Fellows will now be asked to indicate their support by ballot, with the results confirmed in July. Sir Paul is a former professor of microbiology at the University of Oxford and is president of Rockefeller University in New York.

Correction

There were some errors in our table of "top researchers in business and economics" (22 April) because multiple name variants in the data were not taken into account. A revised table has been published online.

http://bit.ly/buHxqX

ONLINE NOW

Last week Times Higher Education reported on a paper that suggests that a "publish or perish" culture is encouraging academics to produce "positive" results in order to get their work published.

"Observer" writes: "Negative results are only interesting if they relate to a widely believed hypothesis. I could fill my days negating hypotheses such as 'all pineapples contain small garden gnomes'."

Peter responds: "Negative results give information on which future research can be based. Making these results hard to find hinders the scientific process."

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