Today's news

May 6, 2004

Degree grades 'are too crude'
The traditional degree classification of firsts, seconds and thirds should be scrapped, a government-backed task group will recommend in the summer. The "scoping group" charged by ministers to review the system for measuring students' achievement has concluded that the system of awarding firsts, 2:1s, 2:2s and third-class degrees is too crude to be meaningful. The group, headed by Bob Burgess, vice-chancellor of Leicester University, is unlikely to propose a replacement for the classifications. But it will call for further work to establish a new system that will more finely and accurately measure a student's achievement.
( Times Higher, Independent, Guardian )

Research boss wary over web publishing
The government would have to be "pretty brave" to demand open-access publishing for all publicly funded scientific research journals, Sir Keith O'Nions, the director-general of the research councils, said yesterday. He raised concerns over the process of peer review under open access, with doubts having been expressed over who pays academics to validate journals for publication. His comments came as MPs on the Commons science and technology committee continued their investigation into the future of scientific publications.
( Guardian )

MPs say ministers ignored GM fears
The government is guilty of "wilful or careless misinterpretations" in ignoring the concerns of those who oppose the planting of GM crops in Britain, MPs said yesterday. Members of the environment audit committee are angry that their scientific and social objections to the early introduction of GM crops were brushed aside by the government, apparently without considering them, just five days before the environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, announced the go-ahead for GM maize.
( Guardian )

Scientist angry at block on horse cloning
A leading reproductive scientist claims the government is running scared of animal rights campaigners after blocking efforts to clone horses. Twink Allen, director of the Equine Fertility Unit in Newmarket and professor of equine reproduction at Cambridge University, applied to implant cloned embryos into female horses three years ago, but the licence was rejected by the Home Office. The decision has effectively banned UK horse cloning.
( Guardian )

Satellite data confirms global warming
Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle are claiming to have found compelling evidence for global warming, finally demolishing the argument of sceptics who have denied the phenomenon is real. Analysis of satellite data has revealed that temperatures in a critical part of the atmosphere are rising much faster than previously thought, strengthening the worldwide consensus that the earth is warming up. Details are published today in the journal Nature.
( Guardian, Times )

Blinding effect of Cupid's arrow revealed
Scientists at the University of Pisa in Italy have discovered that the first flush of love makes men produce less of the hormone testosterone but prompts women to make much more, leaving each more indulgent of the faults that go with the other's gender. However, the blinding effects of Cupid's arrow wear off within a year or two and the couple will be back to arguing about whether Saturday afternoons are for Ikea or football.
( Times )

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