Today's news

October 12, 2006

EU university 'a white elephant'
A grand European scheme to create a €2.4 billion (£1.6 billion) university to rival the world’s best is struggling to find private-sector support after being dismissed by leading academics as a white elephant. The European Institute of Technology is the brainchild and pet project of José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, who believes it is needed to keep pace with cutting-edge research in China, India and the US. Academics across Europe fear that it is a vanity project at taxpayers’ expense that will rob established universities of funds and duplicate the work of the European Research Council, set up last year to award research funds across the 25 member states.
The Times

Academics reject research funding proposals
More than 80 per cent of academics do not support government proposals for the future of research funding, according to a new poll from the University and College Union. Plans to assess research with a metrics-based system, which would replace the current practice where every active researcher in every university in the UK is painstakingly assessed by panels of other academics, were opposed by 81 per cent of academics in the union's poll. The poll was commissioned in response to the chancellor's announcement in this year's budget that the research assessment exercise would be scrapped after 2008. The Department for Education and Skills then launched a consultation which proposed assessing research through a new metrics-based system. The consultation ends on Friday.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 13)

Sussex to welcome back distinguished chemist
Nobel laureate Professor Sir Harry Kroto is to leave America and return to the University of Sussex chemistry department that he left in disgust just two years ago. Gerry Lawless, the head of chemistry at Sussex, approached Sir Harry - who left Sussex for Florida State University in 2004 after citing a lack of financial support - and asked him to return. Dr Lawless expects to have Sir Harry's part-time return finalised by the end of the week. The news comes less than six months after the vice-chancellor, Alasdair Campbell, was forced to abandon his controversial plans to close the university's top-rated chemistry department.
The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Oct 13)

Reading students protest against physics closure plans
Students staged a protest outside the University of Reading's senate meeting today as the vice-chancellor's controversial plans to close the physics department were being debated. The university maintains it is no longer feasible to retain a physics department and intends not to recruit any new students after this year's intake in order to allow the department to close no later than July 2010. The final decision will be made next month. Simon Stacey, the president of the students' physics society, said the university's senior management board had failed to consult students or explain the reasons behind the decision.
The Guardian

Discovered: Europe's first new mammal in 100 years
A new mammal species - thought to be the first discovered in Europe for more than a century - has been identified by a scientist based at the University of Durham. The grey mouse, found in Cyprus by Thomas Cucchi, has been confirmed as an entirely new species by genetic tests, overturning the widespread assumption that Europe had no mammals left to be discovered. Dr Cucchi, who is French, was working on the Mediterranean island studying mouse teeth from the Stone Age period and comparing them with those of four modern mouse species when he came across a variety that seemed to differ from all known European mice.
The Times

Maggot juice - just what the doctor ordered
It's not a treatment for the faint-hearted. Now it seems that not only do maggots eat away the dead tissue from wounds and allow healing to begin, they also secrete a fluid containing enzymes to speed up the healing process. Stephen Britland at the University of Bradford, UK, and his colleagues applied extracts of maggot juice to layers of cells that mimic skin. When circular "wounds" were created in the cell layers, those exposed to the maggot extracts healed fastest. Closer analysis revealed that protease enzymes in the juice caused specialised repair cells to move more swiftly and freely to the wound site. "They all march in unison and fill the hole significantly quicker," says co-author David Pritchard of the University of Nottingham.
New Scientist

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