Today's news

September 6, 2004

£62m Biobank may not be worth it, says professor
The scientist who invented DNA fingerprinting two decades ago has warned that the world's biggest study of the role of nature and nurture in disease could cost billions and yet be of little medical benefit. Sir Alec Jeffreys of Leicester University said the costs of the UK Biobank project could spiral out of control. John Newton, chief executive officer of Biobank, will tell the British Association for the Advancement of Science later this week that the foundations of 21st-century medicine will be laid by the project. He rejects Sir Alec's criticisms and says that he has the UK scientific community on his side. He said UK Biobank was the envy of rival American researchers. But Sir Alec believes the money could be better spent on smaller, targeted projects to look at genetic and lifestyle factors in particular diseases.
Daily Telegraph

Call for public to have bigger say in research
The public must be given a stronger voice in the direction of research, according to the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Dame Julia Higgins, professor of polymer science at Imperial College London, will launch the annual BA science festival in Exeter today with a call for her fellow researchers to take account of public concern about the way science is going - at a fundamental level.
Financial Times, Daily Telegraph

Education spending can be cut by £5.7bn, say Tories
Up to £5.7 billion a year could be saved from the government's education budget, the Tories conclude in the latest instalment of their Whitehall efficiency review. The biggest savings would come from the reduced role for local education authorities under Tory plans to make all schools self-governing, funded directly from Whitehall. Like Labour, the Tories envisage a lighter inspection regime run by a smaller Ofsted, the watchdog. They would also abolish seven quangos including the planned university access regulator.

Gunmen teach deadly lessons to Iraqi academics
Iraqi universities and the people who work and study at them are proving a battleground for groups of all stripes who are trying to define the shape of the new Iraq. Just over a week ago Iman Yunis, head of translation at Mosul university, became the 35th academic to be murdered in Iraq since the ousting of the Ba'athist regime.
Financial Times

£456,000 gift to York from Dyke
Former BBC director-general Greg Dyke has donated his £456,000 golden handshake to his old university. The cash will pay for a new film, theatre and television department at York University. Dyke, 57, is chancellor at York.

Getting to grips with Bologna
Kai Peters, chief executive of Ashridge Business School, explains the significance of moves to align European systems of higher education.
Financial Times

Everyone loves a pretty face
Good-looking boys and girls have a much bigger advantage in life because we are all genetically programmed to love a pretty face, according to Alan Slater, a developmental psychologist at Exeter University. Dr Slater said that scientific tests with new-born babies have revealed that they have an instinctive fascination for men and women who look like Hollywood film stars - and an in-built prejudice against more "ordinary"-looking adults.
Scotsman, Times, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent

Moths feel the heat from climate change
Two-thirds of Britain's moth species are declining under pressure from modern agriculture and global warming, a 35-year study has revealed. Populations of more than 200 species of moth, out of 340 monitored during the Rothamsted Insect Survey, have fallen since it began in 1965. One in five of these species is decreasing at an alarming rate, scientists said.

US nuclear test fallout hit Britain
The Broadbalk field trial, which has been analysing soil in Hertfordshire since 1843, has found traces of plutonium contamination from US nuclear tests in the Nevada desert in 1952 and 1953. The research project will be discussed at this week's Festival of Science at Exeter University.
Times, Daily Telegraph

Higher education items in the weekend press
- Teenagers in middle-class areas have begun to turn their backs on university. Sunday Times
- Article about gap year problems. Observer

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