Today's news

July 20, 2004

Activists halt work on Oxford animal lab
Animal rights protesters yesterday claimed victory after Montpellier plc pulled out of its contract to build a controversial vivisection laboratory at Oxford University. The company's subsidiary, Walter Lilly, is abandoning the project after a campaign of pressure from activists, including hoax letters to shareholders urging them to sell out, which has pushed shares down to their lowest level in four years. The university last night said it had made alternative plans, which it would not be making public, and building work would continue. But Speak, the group which is co-ordinating opposition to the laboratory, promised to root out the names of companies involved in the work.
Independent, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times

MPs back free access to research results
The results of publicly funded scientific research carried out in Britain should be freely available to all and the Government should help universities fund digital archives of their academic work, a committee of MPs says. In its long-awaited report into the scientific publishing market, the Commons science and technology committee also calls on the Office of Fair Trading to carry out a biennial review of the market. The committee of MPs calls for changes in the way that commercial publishers bundle different journals when selling them to libraries saying that current practices "do not present libraries with value for money".
Guardian, Daily Telegraph

Museums to learn the art of making money
Galleries and museums need to be more entrepreneurial and to recognise an unrealised potential for generating income, MPs say. A report by the public accounts committee calls for the Government to appoint more entrepreneurs as museum trustees and for museums to have a keener approach to money-raising activities such as catering, shops and mail order.
Times, Guardian

Gene scientists plan aggression drug
Scientists gathering in London for a conference to discuss the role that genes play in aggression have said that there is enough known about how genes influence behaviour in animals to consider designing human medicines to fight the rising tide of antisocial behaviour. The scientists cautioned that genes do not hold all the answers; when it comes to aggressive behaviour, studies have found a role for both nature and nurture.
Guardian, Daily Telegraph

Academic unmasks Chaucer's sloppy scribe
A scribe, who until the weekend was known to history only as Adam the scrivener, so infuriated Geoffrey Chaucer with his carelessness that the poet threatened to curse him with an outbreak of scabs. Academic detective work has now unmasked the sloppy copyist as Adam Pinkhurst, son of a small Surrey landowner during the 14th century. Linne Mooney, a scholar from Maine, who is a visiting fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, tracked Pinkhurst down by studying his signature to an oath in the earliest records of the Scriveners' company in the city of London, and comparing it with Chaucer manuscripts.

Punt wars on Cam over pole position
A punt up the river is the ultimate idyllic experience for most summer visitors to Cambridge. But a peaceful glide up the willow tree-lined Cam has become all but impossible since a war between punting touts has broken out. Tourists report being pestered by 30 salesmen while attempting to stroll the 200 yards between Magdalene and Queens' Colleges. Council leaders have decided to introduce a bylaw to restrict the touts in an attempt to protect the historic tradition.
Times, Daily Telegraph

Coffee can make the mind go blank
Caffeine, widely held to make people more alert, can make the mind go blank or struggle to switch between trains of thought. It can help the brain process information rapidly but interferes once the brain tries to switch between subjects, Italian researchers claim in an article published in Behavioral Neuroscience .
Daily Telegraph

Political science
Interview with Bob May, incumbent president of the Royal Society, about his efforts to keep scientific matters at the heart of government debate.

Brussels clout
To stay ahead in the race for research funding, one London Metropolitan University has sent its own 'ambassador' to the EU. Feature article on Howard Davies, who has been bounding back and forth between London and Brussels as head of European development, and reporting back to his institution about the latest in EU policy.

With one voice
Barely two weeks into office, new National Union of Students president Kat Fletcher has announced that further education is to become a priority. Last week she led a delegation that met with the Association of Colleges to open talks on the possibility of joining forces on a range of further education issues.

Apron strings attached
Parents are meddling in children's university education; Frank Furedi says it has got to stop.

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