News in Brief

May 19, 2011

Public trust in science

A measure of faith

The Royal Society is to carry out a study into openness and public trust in science. The move comes in the wake of the Climategate controversy, in which leaked emails from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia led some to question scientists' willingness to make data publicly available. Geoffrey Boulton, chair of the study's working group, said: "The impact of science on people's lives and the implications of scientific assessments for society and the economy are now so great that people won't just believe scientists when they say: 'Trust me, I'm an expert.'"

Research capital funding

Minister reveals axed projects

David Willetts has revealed which of the research councils' projects have been axed as a result of the 44 per cent cut to the research capital budget over the next spending period. In answer to a parliamentary question, the universities and science minister said that funding would not be forthcoming for the Archer national supercomputing service, the upgrade of the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica and construction of the Hartree Centre for computational science and engineering at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus. He also listed phase three of the redevelopment of the Institute for Animal Health at Pirbright, but the chair of the institute's board told Nature that funding had not yet been requested.

Vocational education

Views on raising the grade sought

Universities are to be consulted on how to improve vocational qualifications following the government response to the review of vocational education carried out by Alison Wolf, Sir Roy Griffiths professor of public sector management at King's College London. The government wants pupils to continue, up to the age of 18 if necessary, to study GCSE English or maths until they get a C grade or above. Employers, schools, colleges and universities are to be consulted to "define the criteria that the best vocational qualifications must meet". The government's response also supports the creation of University Technical Colleges for 14- to 19-year-olds and the maintenance of "high-quality" vocational qualifications.

Research collaboration

Flying down to Rio

A groundbreaking partnership between the universities of Birmingham and Nottingham is sending a "joint mission" to Brazil this week to seek research collaborations. The two universities, which collectively have about 67,000 students and 14,000 staff, believe their "framework for collaboration" could be adopted by other institutions. Senior academics from Birmingham and Nottingham are this week visiting Brazil to strike up research links with institutions and funding agencies. Areas of interest include energy, environmental and physical sciences, economics and social sciences.

Grant applications

US success rates set for new low

Grant application success rates at the US biomedical funder the National Institutes of Health have been predicted to fall to a historic low this year. Francis Collins, NIH director, told a Senate subcommittee last week that success rates would probably end up between 17 and 18 per cent this year, compared with 20 per cent last year. The UK's Medical Research Council and its Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council both reported success rates of 21 per cent last year.


The news that nearly 100 administrative jobs are to be cut at London Metropolitan University sparked discussion among readers online.

One says: "As a researcher, I would like to be assured that the valuable TUC archive, which gives access to more than a century's worth of material, is secure. As a human being, I would like to extend my sympathy to the many human beings at London Met who are suffering acute anxiety at this time."


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