News in brief

April 12, 2012

Impact agenda

Lend us your ears

Places are available for an evening forum at Shakespeare's Globe in central London to discuss research impact. The 19 April event - hosted by Times Higher Education and Globe Education - is aimed at fostering dialogue about how the impact measure in the research excellence framework could be refined into a workable, rewarding practice. John Gill, editor of THE, and Paul Jump, senior research reporter, will co-chair the evening, which will feature contributions from academics including Michael Dobson, professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of Birmingham. Tickets to the forum are free, but must be reserved by emailing stating "Times Higher Event 19 April" in the subject line.

Visa policy

'Highly skilled' cap holds steady

Universities have welcomed the news that the annual immigration limit for highly skilled workers from outside the European Union will remain at 20,700 for the next two years. The government confirmed the move, which will not restrict further the ability of non-EU academics to work in the UK, in a statement issued on 4 April. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the organisation "called for the current limit to be retained to help boost economic growth and send a more positive message internationally that the UK welcomes highly skilled migrants. The UK needs to be seen to be open for business to highly skilled academics and researchers." In another move affecting universities, the government has said that PhD-level jobs need no longer be advertised in jobcentres. Employers may also hire the best applicant for such roles regardless of whether or not they are resident workers.


US U-turn on bird flu data access

A US federal body has reversed its earlier recommendation against the full publication of two papers detailing new versions of the bird flu virus that may be transmissible between humans. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity concluded at the end of last year that the papers - one accepted for publication in Science and the other in Nature - should be published only in redacted form so that the research could not be misused by "malevolent individuals, organisations or governments", with "catastrophic" consequences. However, a panel of experts convened in February by the World Health Organization advised full publication. Now the NSABB has fallen into line. A statement released on 30 March says the board has now decided unanimously that a revised version of the Nature paper should be published in full. Nature responded by pledging to publish the paper "as soon as possible". The NSABB also endorsed publication of a revised version of the Science paper.

Carbon capture

Deep pockets aid a dig for victory

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Department of Energy and Climate Change are to fund a £13 million UK Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) research centre. The announcement coincided with the launch last week of the department's CCS Commercialisation Programme and Roadmap, which will invest £125 million in research into capturing carbon dioxide created by the burning of fossil fuels and storing it underground. The centre will be based at the University of Edinburgh and aims to establish a virtual network of industry figures, regulators and more than 100 UK-based researchers.


Our April Fool's Day story revealing that Russell Group universities were to be made to prove that they were in touch with ordinary people by showing vice-chancellors taking part in "normal, everyday activities", such as enjoying a hot pasty from Greggs, failed to catch out too many readers. But it did prompt one to suggest that post-1992 institutions should be returned to polytechnic status so that they could offer more catering courses. "How else will we ensure that there are enough pie-makers to feed Russell Group staff and students, doing all the serious thinking?"

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