News in brief

May 27, 2010

Open access

Yesterday's news, future failure

The British Library has been attacked over its plan to allow online access to its vast newspaper archive. In a speech at the Centre for Digital Humanities at University College London last week, James Murdoch, head of News Corporation in Europe and Asia, said the library was "harming the market" in print journalism with its plan to digitise its archive to provide a complete record of the UK's regional and national press. Mr Murdoch said: "This is not simply being done for posterity, nor to make free access for library users easier, but also for commercial gain via a paid-for website. The move is strongly opposed by major publishers." He added: "The public-sector interest is to distribute content for near-zero cost, harming the market in so doing."


Funding the big beasts

The Science and Technology Facilities Council has launched a review of how large UK science facilities such as the Central Laser Facility in Didcot should be funded. The move follows concerns raised by Lord Drayson, the former science minister, about the increasing burden imposed on the STFC by its commitments to international projects such as Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. The first phase of the review, to be completed by the end of August, will examine the cost of maintaining large domestic facilities. The second phase, running until the end of March 2011, will establish how the new funding model will work.


Transacademy in need of advice

Higher education institutions are more likely than ever to ask for advice on meeting the needs of trans staff and students. The Equality Challenge Unit said the number of downloads for its trans equality guidance had increased by 200 per cent in the past six months. It has launched a fully revised edition of its guidance for the sector, with the Equality Act 2010 a new factor for institutions. Levi Pay, policy director at the ECU, said: "The increase in the number of institutions contacting us for advice ... suggests that it is far more likely than previously thought for an institution to have trans staff and students."


Nature opens up

The Nature Publishing Group has expanded its provision of open-access options to include all 15 of its academic titles. The group announced that seven more of its journals would offer researchers the option of paying a fee to make their articles freely available online as soon as they are published. The fees vary according to the selectivity of the journal and the amount it publishes. A range of licences are available, including one that allows researchers to self-archive the final published version of their papers, in line with many funders' requirements.

Professional development

Qualified backing for framework

The UK Researcher development framework has received a qualified endorsement from researchers and institutions. The RDF was drawn up last year by Vitae, the national organisation for the development of research staff in universities, to formalise professional development. A major consultation found that it was supported by most respondents, but also highlighted concerns about how it dovetailed with related initiatives and how it could acknowledge academic work such as teaching.


David Willetts' pledge to support blue-skies research (see page left) was met with enthusiasm by online readers.

Philip Moriarty, professor of physics at the University of Nottingham, writes: "I sincerely hope that the research/funding councils are paying close attention to Mr Willetts' intelligent, perceptive and refreshing insights into the raison d'etre of much academic research." As a result of the minister's stance, the scholar found himself "in the disturbing position of vigorously agreeing with a Conservative politician".


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