News in Brief

July 28, 2011


A pair of engaging Fellows

Anaesthetist Kevin Fong and medical historian Richard Barnett have been named as the Wellcome Trust's first engagement Fellows. The biomedical funder will provide salary and project costs, office space and training to help the pair raise the profile of their own fields and biomedical science over the next two years by devising "innovative public engagement projects that examine, explore and debate the big scientific challenges faced by society". Dr Fong is a consultant anaesthetist at University College London Hospital, an honorary senior lecturer in physiology at University College London and a Times Higher Education columnist. Richard Barnett is temporary lecturer in the history of medicine at UCL.


Big three aim to embed concept

Three major sector bodies have signed a joint statement on impact. The Higher Education Funding Council for England, Research Councils UK and Universities UK have pledged to work together to embed "a culture in which excellent research departments consistently engage with business, the public sector and civil society organisations, and are committed to carrying new ideas through to beneficial outcomes". The statement notes that impact can take "a wide variety of forms", including "contribution to cultural life, public debate or improved understanding of the world". It also calls for impact to be rewarded through funding mechanisms and career development.

Visa rules

One thousand exceptional cases

Academics are likely to figure prominently among the 1,000 people a year expected to be awarded one of the Home Office's "exceptional talent" working visas. The Tier 1 route will be open to those who have "either been recognised as leaders in their respective fields or have the potential to become one". Applicants will not need to be sponsored by employers but must be nominated by one of four "competent bodies". The Royal Society and Arts Council England will each be able to nominate up to 300 people a year. The Royal Academy of Engineering and the British Academy will be allowed to nominate 200 each.

Knowledge transfer

£2 million is just the start

Two Welsh universities are to launch a £2 million venture capital fund to invest in local businesses and commercialise research. The fund, which will make its first investments next year, will provide cash and support to "ambitious local businesses" in mid and North Wales. It will be financed from a "variety of sources" including private equity. In a joint statement, Bangor and Aberystwyth universities say that the £2 million figure is an "initial" amount.

Science coverage

Auntie, look beyond the fringe

A review has highlighted weaknesses in the BBC's coverage of scientific news stories, complaining that excessive time and attention is given to marginal views. The review, commissioned last year, comprises an independent report by Steve Jones, emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, and an analysis by researchers at Imperial College London. Professor Jones concludes that while the BBC is better than its commercial rivals, it gives too much weight to fringe opinions and relies on too narrow a range of sources.


The suggestion last week that university marketing departments should play a bigger role in setting the curriculum to avoid the creation of "vanity courses" by academics sparked debate.

A reader writes: "Marketing managers are not themselves immune from vanity about their own knowledge and skills, but their effectiveness is rarely rigorously tested. An academic performing poorly has a range of ways of being found out - from student feedback to peer review...I see no evidence of anything equivalent at my institution for marketing."

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