News in Brief

March 17, 2011

Citation ranking

The hottest of the hot list

Geneticists dominate a list of the "hottest" researchers compiled by Thomson Reuters. The science data company last week published a ranking of the authors with the greatest number of "hot papers" in 2010 - papers that are less than two years old and that received markedly higher citations than comparable papers in the same field. The list is headed by Eric S. Lander, who is based at the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. It is the seventh appearance in the annual ranking for the expert on treatments of genetic mapping and human disease, and in 2010 he had 10 "hot papers". This year, seven of the 13 hottest researchers are geneticists, including three from Iceland: Augustine Kong, Kari Stefansson and Unnur Thorsteinsdottir. Andre K. Geim, who is based at the University of Manchester and who won the Nobel Prize for Physics last year, is on the list for the third year running.

Pensions

Employers berate no-show UCU

The University and College Union is trying to be "rule maker and rule breaker" in the sector's £30 billion pension scheme, according to employers. On 9 March, UCU representatives again failed to attend a meeting to discuss implementation of changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The union, which has an equal stake in running the scheme alongside the employers, wants further negotiations after winning a strike ballot over the plans. It emerged this week that Tom Merchant, chief executive of the USS, has written to universities to tell them that changes will now not be implementable on the agreed date of 1 April. A spokesman for the Employers Pensions Forum said: "When it comes to the running of a £30 billion pension scheme like USS, UCU cannot play a game of both rule maker and rule breaker." Another meeting has been scheduled for 17 March.

RCUK/government concordat

Making the most of research

Research Councils UK has signed a pioneering agreement to coordinate its research activities with that of the Department for Communities and Local Government. The "concordat" aims to bring researchers and officials together to identify areas of shared interest, advise on each other's research programmes and promote knowledge exchange. It is the first time all seven research councils have signed such an agreement with a government department. Sir Bob Kerslake, permanent secretary of DCLG, said the agreement would help his department make the best use of new and existing academic research to "make the best policy".

Science funding

'10-year commitment' needed

John Denham, Labour shadow business secretary, has called for the government to make a 10-year commitment to science funding to help the science base realise its potential to drive economic growth. Speaking at an event organised by the Campaign for Science and Engineering last week, Mr Denham acknowledged that the research budget's flat-cash settlement had been generous compared with the deep cuts inflicted in other areas of public spending in the Comprehensive Spending Review last October. But he said higher research spending abroad meant the UK would still lose ground to other countries, given the government's refusal to replicate the previous Labour government's 10-year spending commitment to science. "Reverting to short-termism is bound to raise questions about the UK's long-term strategic commitment to science," he said.

• For a transcript of the speech, see: http://bit.ly/fX8xrg

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Lord Hutton's review of public sector pensions, published last week, recommends an end to final-salary deals and an older retirement age. About 200,000 higher education staff would be affected by the proposed changes, mostly in pre-1992 universities.

A reader writes: "It's OK by me. I love my job and would happily continue on after 65."

Another reader replies: "Well good for you. The rest of us would like a lie down."

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