Overseas briefing

July 3, 2008

Canada

Medical researchers to take oath

Doctors have the Hippocratic oath, but until now scientists have not had a moral code to which they swear allegiance. That is about to change at the University of Toronto, where medical researchers are to be asked to take part in their own solemn ceremony. Karen Davis, graduate co-ordinator of the Institute of Medical Science, said the pledge stemmed in part from the growing recognition of the potential for academic misconduct. The oath includes the words: "I promise never to allow financial gain, competitiveness or ambition cloud my judgment in the conduct of ethical research and scholarship," Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reported.

United States

Professor sacked over plagiarism

A professor at Columbia University is to be sacked for plagiarism and obstructing the official investigation into her case. Madonna G. Constantine, professor of psychology and education at Columbia's Teachers College, was found to have plagiarised the work of a former colleague and two students. But Professor Constantine insisted that it was her work that had been plagiarised and said that the university was biased against her because she was black, claiming she had found a noose hanging outside her office last October. The university reduced her salary and asked for her resignation in February, which she declined to give. It has now decided to fire her, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

Switzerland

Collider won't cause apocalypse

The planet Earth is not at risk from the world's most powerful particle physics experiment, a report has concluded. The study looked at whether the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva, could have apocalyptic unforeseen consequences. Critics fear mini-black holes made at the soon-to-open facility, which will smash together protons at super-fast speeds, might threaten the Earth's existence. But the Cern report says that the km-long collider poses "no conceivable danger", the BBC reported.

United States

Staff trained in shooter scenarios

"Survival training" to improve the chances of staff and students during a campus shooting is becoming the norm at US universities. The market for survival training is "ripe", The Chronicle of Higher Education reported, with institutions across the country developing "active shooter scenarios". Now, more than 50 colleges have subscribed to a new programme developed by a hostage-survival expert formerly of the US Department of Defence.

India

University denies it is a 'fake'

An Indian high court has intervened in a row between a government commission and a university it branded as "fake", asking both parties to resolve the dispute "amicably". The court instructed the Indian Institute of Planning and Management and the University Grants Commission to settle their difference after the IIPM was included on a list of fake universities by the regulatory body. The IIPM's lawyer, A.S. Chandiok, told the court: "We do not mind being called unrecognised, but the word 'fake' is not correct and should not be used." Mr Chandiok insisted that the IIPM provided valuable financial training to entrepreneurs and was recognised "all over the world", The Economic Times reported.

Uganda

Miniskirt ban to curb immorality

Miniskirts and other "indecent" dress have been banned at an African university to improve student and staff morals. The ban at Makerere University in Uganda follows reports that lecturers are demanding sex from students in return for good grades, news website allAfrica.com reported. Peter Baguma, head of organisational psychology, said: "Abolishing miniskirts and tights will enable students to adopt a new culture which doesn't promote immorality." A survey last year found that four out of ten female students at Makerere reported being propositioned by lecturers. But a university youth worker said scantily dressed students were also guilty of sexual harassment against male staff. He said: "Exposure of breasts, buttocks and thighs constitutes sexual harassment. There is need to develop a culture of decency in intellectual pursuit."

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