Today's news

January 26, 2006

Payout for part-time lecturer sets precedent, union claims
The lecturers' union Natfhe today claimed victory for part-time lecturers after the settlement of a three-year battle with Leeds Metropolitan University. Natfhe and the TUC hope that the precedent set by Susan Birch, a part-time lecturer in English as a foreign language, will boost pay and conditions for 30,000 hourly-paid lecturers in new universities and part-time workers in other sectors. But the university denied any precedent had been set because the settlement was reached before the tribunal could reach a decision. She has been awarded £25,000 compensation and is being transferred to a full-time permanent contract in a settlement agreed just before the case was due to go to a final hearing. 
The Times Higher Education Supplement (Jan ), The Guardian

Non-profit firm in £30m campus deal
A non-profit firm has been awarded a £30 million contract to build halls of residence at the new Queen Margaret University College campus. Sanctuary Housing, one of the UK's largest housing associations, will create the accommodation for 800 people at the 35-acre site in Craighall, near Musselburgh. Sanctuary has appointed contractor Miller Construction to carry out the building work. The not-for-profit firm will also provide day-to-day maintenance services for the halls of residence over a 35-year contract term. The new QMUC campus will see more than 4000 staff and students move from its existing bases at Corstorphine and Leith. The move is expected to be completed by autumn 2007.
The Scotsman

Minister forecasts further research cutbacks
More government research institutes are likely to close or be cut back as research is increasingly undertaken in universities, the science minister, Lord Sainsbury, warned MPs yesterday. He told the Commons science and technology committee that world-class research was better done in the multidisciplinary setting a university could provide. Asked about plans to cut 200 staff from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), the minister said it was a decision for the Natural Environment Research Council but praised the council for grasping the issue. Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West, said the centre was embedded in Oxford University and the loss of staff would lead to a loss of expertise in matters like biodiversity. It was unrealistic to expect staff, especially women, to move to other CEH centres in Scotland.
The Guardian

Mail-order kit can predict woman's fertility for next two years
Scientists unveiled a mail-order kit yesterday that can predict a woman's fertility for two years. Plan Ahead uses a unique triple hormone test to show women if they have enough eggs in their ovaries to conceive over a prolonged period of time. Standard fertility tests measure only one hormone, offering a less accurate snapshot of ovarian health. The release of the test, which was developed by Professor William Ledger, of the University of Sheffield, comes just months after the British Medical Journal warned women that by delaying conception they risked finding themselves infertile when they then tried to become pregnant. Fertility declines rapidly after the age of 35 but surveys report a growing number of women wanting to wait until their 40s to have their last child.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent

How to throw a soccer ball
Researchers have managed to confirm what many football players have already worked out: when it comes to throwing a soccer ball far and fast, the usual rules of projectile maths don't necessarily apply. The study, by sports scientists Nicholas Linthorne and David Everett at Brunel University in Uxbridge, also holds some tips for soccer coaches as to how to get the best from their long-throwing players. The 'long throw-in' is a classic, useful move in soccer: chucking a ball from the touchline into the opponents' goalmouth can catch defenders off guard, and an attacker receiving the ball from a throw can't be caught out by the offside rule. If all of that sounds like gibberish, rest assured that the ability to overhand throw a ball a long distance is a very good thing. But the mechanics of it seems to defy standard wisdom in physics.
Nature

Welcome to the Planet OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb
The smallest and most Earth-like planet outside the Solar System has been discovered and astronomers say it increases the chances of finding extra-terrestrial life. Scientists are excited at the detection of the planet, unromantically named OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, because it has a low mass, is rocky and has a thin atmosphere. Keith Horne, professor of astronomy at St Andrews University, is one of the 73 researchers from 32 institutions who collaborated to make the discovery. He said: "Our methods are 50 times more sensitive to the discovery of large gas giant planets, so the fact that the third we found is small and rocky means that there must be a large number of them."
The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, The Guardian, The Independent

Northern Isles ferries should be bigger, says academic study
The ferries which operate the lifeline route to the Northern Isles were yesterday branded two of the "most inefficient and environmentally unfriendly" vessels built in recent years in a new academic study. A report by Napier University's Maritime Research Group claims that the two NorthLink ferries, which currently sail the route between Aberdeen and Orkney and Shetland, the Hjaltland and the Hrossey , should be replaced by larger and more cost-effective boats.
The Scotsman

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