News in brief

September 2, 2010

Scientific misconduct

Harvard researcher at fault

Harvard academic Marc Hauser has been found solely responsible for eight instances of scientific misconduct under standards set by the university's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Michael Smith, faculty dean, confirms the finding in an email published by Science online. Professor Smith states that "Harvard considers confidential the specific sanctions applied to anyone found responsible for scientific misconduct", although options include involuntary leave, additional oversight of research, and restrictions on research grant applications. In a statement admitting to "significant mistakes", Professor Hauser, a cognitive scientist, expresses disappointment over the retraction of his 2002 paper on pattern recognition in monkeys. He urges the scientific community to wait for the federal investigative agencies' final conclusions, and says he intends to return to science.

British Library

Bibliographic data go global

The British Library is to make its collections of bibliographic records freely available to researchers and other libraries around the world. The library has about 14 million catalogue records, which it believes could be useful to researchers trying to retrieve bibliographic records for publications dating back centuries. Neil Wilson, head of metadata services, said he would be interested to see what other uses the data could be put to. "As developments such as the semantic web create more effective opportunities for researchers to find, manipulate and link information, the availability of good-quality data from a trusted source such as the British Library will become increasingly important," he said.

Postdoctoral researchers

Long-range career forecast urged

Postdoctoral researchers may one day see an end to the gruelling cycle of applying for new fellowships as they complete each successive contract, a new report suggests. The report, to be published jointly by the Association of Research Managers and Administrators, and Vitae, which supports the training and development of researchers, examines key initiatives for sustaining research capacity in UK universities. It argues that there should be a shift in emphasis away from transferable skills training and towards supporting career development by investing in longer-term employment. Ray Kent, head of research development and policy support at Loughborough University and co-author of the report, said this may mean smaller research teams, with a "core of the highest-calibre research staff" employed on a more permanent basis. The report, Hard times? Building and sustaining research capacity in UK universities, will be launched at the Vitae annual conference later this month.

Medicine and bioscience

Wellcome welcomes digital move

The Wellcome Library in London is launching a programme to digitise its vast collections and create a major online resource for the study of medicine and bioscience. The Wellcome Trust has agreed a budget of £3.9 million to begin a two-year pilot project on modern genetics and its foundations. Along with 1,400 books published between 1850 and 1990, this will include important archives such as the papers of Francis Crick - notably his original drawings of the structure of DNA. It will form an invaluable documentary record, which will illuminate the cultural, political, social and scientific aspects of genetic research. Initial material will be accessible from this month.


The dangers of the "post-quango future" envisaged by David Cameron are highlighted by Tara Brabazon, professor of media studies, University of Brighton. Urging the government to preserve bodies such as the Research Information Network, she says: "Thinkers may require some protection in and from the Big Society. Unfortunately, 'hug a smart bugger' does not have the same ring as 'hug a hoodie'. As long as the thinkers are referred to as bureaucrats, managers, administrators and red tape ... then they become a barrier to efficiencies 'at the front line'."

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