News in Brief

October 21, 2010

Framework Programme

Participation investigation

The government has launched a consultation on the European Union's Framework Programme for research amid concerns about UK businesses' reluctance to get involved. The Seventh Framework Programme, which runs from 2007 to 2013, is expected to be worth a total of EUR50.5 billion (£44.1 billion). The UK has won EUR1.8 billion of the EUR12.7 billion awarded so far, but most of the funds have flowed into academic rather than commercial R&D departments. David Willetts, the UK's minister for universities and science, said: "We want to hear from those with first-hand experiences of this initiative so that we can better equip the UK to maximise on the opportunities on offer." The consultation runs until 4 January 2011.

Academic publishing

Open access increases citations

Making a research paper open access leads to a higher citation count even when doing so is mandatory, a study has found. Researchers from the University of Southampton and l'Université du Québec à Montréal believe their findings dispel suspicions that the relatively high citation counts achieved by open-access papers are the result of authors reserving the option only for their best papers. The evidence suggests that the citation advantage remained even when authors were required by funders or institutions to make all their papers open access. The findings were published this week in the journal PLoS One to coincide with the start of Open Access Week.

Legal dispute

Classification case review offer

A legal bid by a former Queen's University Belfast student to have his degree classification increased has been put on hold after the university agreed to review his grade. Andrew Croskery graduated from Queen's this summer with a 2:2, but he claims that with adequate supervision he would have got a 2:1. He made an application for a judicial review after the university refused to reconsider his degree classification on the grounds that he had already graduated. But Queen's has now offered to look at his case again, and the judicial proceedings, which were due to start last week, have been adjourned until 2 November.

Online distance learning

'Culture change' for staff

Student expectations that tutors should be available "around the clock" and political tensions over partnerships with private providers have been identified as potential barriers to the expansion of online distance learning. But many of these hurdles have become "much less significant" in recent years, according to a report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England by the University of Oxford's department for continuing education. Interviews with university staff suggest that the most significant "culture change" is not the need for staff to acquire new technical skills, but the shift in teaching approach that online distance learning requires. Universities also say that online distance learning is not cheap to develop or to deliver. The report, Study of UK Online Learning, was commissioned to inform the UK's Online Learning Task Force, chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library.


As scientists tussle over carving up their budget, a reader offers a wry take on how the debate may have unfolded 500 years ago: "Oy, Galileo! The public think your funding should be discontinued as it is only used to research pointless stuff about the universe. And worst still, to teach it!"

"Seems draconian. I'd have thought research exploring a heliocentric view of the universe would be of interest and value for developing human knowledge."

"Well, it isn't. Doesn't make any money, does it? Have you thought about focusing on improving manure instead?"


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