News in brief

November 18, 2010

Published research

'Flawed' paper pulled

A paper describing a technique to identify all metabolic activity in a population of cells has been retracted, even though its main corresponding author insists the technique works. The paper describing the "reactome array" was published in Science last month, but chemists quickly identified flaws and a Spanish ethics committee recommended retraction. The statement of retraction, published last week, expresses the 18 authors' "profound regret" for the paper's "errors and omissions", and accepts they have created "scepticism" about the array. But Manuel Ferrer, a researcher at the Institute of Catalysis and Petrochemistry in Madrid and the paper's main corresponding author, told Times Higher Education that the array had been used successfully by other laboratories and "well-known international companies".

Student finance

Revised maintenance loan figure

The government has been forced to admit that it made a mistake in its original announcement on proposed new arrangements for student support. In a written statement to Parliament, David Willetts, universities and science minister, says students from families earning between £49,000 and £53,000 would actually be entitled to less in loans - on average £120 - for living costs from 2012-13. The government had originally stated that all students whose families earned between £42,000 and £60,000 would face an increase in their entitlement to maintenance loans. Mr Willetts said the 2.5 per cent fall in loan support for 2.5 per cent of students was due to a proposed simplification of the means-testing system.


Consortium to drive innovation

A consortium of European regions containing biomedical "clusters" are drawing up plans to turn themselves into US-style world centres for healthcare innovation. The HealthTIES consortium, led by Medical Delta in the Netherlands, has obtained €2 million (£1.7 million) from the European Commission to draw up a blueprint for driving healthcare innovation in regions already containing clusters of universities, biotech companies and the healthcare sector. The consortium, which also includes the universities of Oxford, Zurich, Barcelona and Debrecen in Hungary, will examine the partnerships, infrastructure and investment necessary to tackle major diseases.

Intellectual property

Review to consider enforcement

Ian Hargreaves, chair of digital economy at Cardiff Business School, is to lead a review into how the intellectual property system can be improved to drive growth. He will look at barriers to internet-based business models and the cost and complexity of enforcing intellectual property rights within the UK and internationally. His review will also look at the cost to small businesses of accessing IP advice.

Education budgets

ESU to focus on reversing cuts

The European Students' Union has pledged to focus on reversing cuts to higher education budgets across the continent in 2011. An ESU survey carried out in 2009 found that student unions in 12 European countries reported that budget cuts had produced added financial burden for students. Bert Vandenkendelaere, the union's chair, said: "Governments should not forget that education is the key to development and welfare in any modern society."


The violence that flared at last week's student protest was denounced by readers online.

One writes: "I was at the protest and it was peaceful while I was there. I'm deeply ashamed of the people who caused violence and annoyed about how this demo will now be remembered. The way it has been portrayed by the media is also greatly damaging to the reputation and general feeling towards students, and frustrating as it completely ignores the vast majority of students who demonstrated peacefully."

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