Today's news

June 29, 2004

Students questioned over exam paper theft
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority said yesterday that the number of A-level papers stolen from Harrow Park Tutorial College earlier this month had risen to 22. Until yesterday, the theft was thought to have been confined to five papers in maths, biology and chemistry, which were later sold to pupils for up to £1,000. The other papers believed to have been stolen included exams in accounting, business studies, economics, physics and English. Despite the breach of security, all but three of the papers have remained unchanged.
( Times )

Wellcome's £1.25m plan boosts open access
The Wellcome Trust yesterday announced plans for an open-ccess archive of a host of influential medical journals. The £1.25 million project, in collaboration with the Joint Information Systems Committee, aims to digitise and archive more than a dozen medical publications over the coming year. All research papers published in participating journals should be freely available on the internet within a year of publication, with other journal content available within three years. The list of journals include Annals of Surgery and the Journal of Physiology .
( Guardian )

Oxford smokers find ban too much of a fag
The first vote to ban smoking at an Oxford college was passed last week at Linacre College. Anti-smoking campaigners are delighted, but some masters and doctoral students have not taken to the new regime so well. They rebelled by staging a late-night smoke-in, which began with heavy puffing, moved on to burning holes in the carpet and culminated with the "liberal distribution" of a Chinese takeaway meal
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Moving problem for polar scientists
Scientists at Britain's Antarctic Survey ice station have been told by glaciologists that their base will float away within a decade. The predicted fracture of the Brunt ice shelf, on which the station sits,  is due to a 50-year cycle of glacial movements and not global warming - cold comfort to the taxpayer, who will foot the £19 million bill for a replacement.
( Times )

Embryo gene test brings designer babies closer
Scientists at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, announced yesterday that they are close to developing a microarray, or "gene chip", test that can screen embryos for about a dozen different mutations that cause cystic fibrosis. A single test that simultaneously screens embryos for dozens of genetic disorders could soon be available, greatly advancing the prospect of designer babies.
( Times )

Ultrasound-scanner pioneer urges curb on abortion
Aborting foetuses more than 14 weeks old should be banned unless there are compelling medical reasons, one of the country's leading pregnancy experts has said. Stuart Campbell, former head of obstetrics at King's College Hospital, says striking new images from 4D-ultrasound scans that allow doctors to view babies inside the womb have convinced him the normal 24-week legal limit for terminations should be reassessed.
( Guardian, Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Extract of African drug helps stop sperm burnout
Stimulants found in the African drug qat can boost male fertility, scientists have discovered. Research at King's College London has revealed that the active chemicals in khat leaves, which are chewed as a narcotic by many Somali men in Britain, enhance the development of mouse and human sperm and prevent them from burning out in the womb before reaching the egg.
( Times )

Buck up : Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, writes denying any links with the Conservative party. ( Guardian )

Converted to the cause : Interview with Bryan Sanderson as he steps down from the Learning and Skills Council. ( Guardian )

Heart in hand : Christopher Frayling says that it is time to stop thinking of arts degrees as trade qualifications. ( Guardian )

Wrapped up in books : Interview with Dame Gillian Beer, a leading figure at the interface between science and literature. ( Guardian )

Overdrawn but laid back : Stocktaking with three fresher students now that their first year at university is over. ( Guardian )

RCA vehicle design in top gear : Feature on the Royal College of Art's leading role in the study of vehicle design. ( Independent )

Obituary : Ronald Finn, the physician whose immunology research helped to save the lives of thousands of newborn babies, died of cancer on May 21 2004, aged 73. ( Times )

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