News in brief

May 26, 2011

'Exam howlers' competition

Can 'anus crimes' be beaten?

It is that time of year when the pile of marking grows ever larger, which can mean only one thing: the return of Times Higher Education's annual "exam howlers" competition. Last year's entries included the student who defined otitis media - a medical condition known as "glue ear" - as "a text specially designed for people who are otistic", and another who apologised for missing an exam, saying they hoped it had not caused their tutor "any incontinence". The winner, however, was the lecturer at the University of Portsmouth who reported that a student "wrote about 'anus crimes' all the way through their essay - I finally realised they meant 'heinous crimes'". The academic who submits the winning entry this year will receive a magnum of champagne.

Send entries to: sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com

Open-access publishing

Wide acceptance but myths linger

Most researchers value free access to their papers, but widespread misunderstanding of open access and some mistrust of open-access publishers remain, a survey has found. The poll of more than 8,000 authors commissioned by commercial open-access publisher InTech found that 75 per cent of respondents regard free access to their work as important. Most researchers also accept the need for author charges. "But publishers should take note that the payment must be seen to be set at a fair level and authors should receive a high-quality service in return," the report says. Some respondents mistakenly think that open-access publishing does not use peer review and is "'vanity publishing' or even a scam". Researchers also worry that author charges mean that open-access journals have little incentive to reject substandard work.

http://bit.ly/lqKjbe

Arts and humanities

Narrow lens filters out benefits

The Arts and Humanities Research Council has published a report highlighting the economic contribution made by the subjects it funds. Hidden Connections: Knowledge Exchange between the Arts and Humanities and the Private, Public and Third Sectors polled more than 3,500 academics and more than 2,500 UK businesses. It states that arts and humanities scholars interact with business and society in a variety of ways, but rarely in the form of traditional knowledge transfer. Alan Hughes, director of the University of Cambridge's Centre for Business Research, which carried out the study, said: "Academics connect through a wide range of...activities that remain hidden if a narrow commercialisation lens is used."

http://bit.ly/izoSTX

Research concentration

More bang for council bucks

The Million+ group of post-1992 universities has launched a report arguing against further research concentration. Research That Matters concludes that concentration on research-intensive universities would stifle innovation and economic growth at the regional and national level. The report points out that for every pound spent on university research by the funding councils in 2008-09, post-92 institutions leveraged £2.91 from other sources, compared with £2.17 by their peers in the Russell Group and £1.77 by those in the 1994 Group. It adds that post-92s supported 67 per cent of graduate start-up companies in 2007-08. Les Ebdon, chairman of Million+, said there was no clear relationship between the size of a research team and the excellence of its output.

ONLINE NOW

Last week's story on the continuing row over the Universities Superannuation Scheme stirred up contrasting views online.

One reader said of the coming cuts to pensions: "As a student who was considering a career in academia, this gives me more of an inclination to scrap the idea completely."

But another criticised academics' "shallow self-interest", adding: "It's simply not credible to expect better pensions than the rest of society when UK higher education as a whole is underfunded and dysfunctional."

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