Today's news

February 22, 2007

University chiefs’ salaries rise faster than lecturers’
The salaries of university vice-chancellors rose at more than double the rate of lecturers last year. Forty-three now earn more than the Prime Minister, with salaries of over £185,771, and 34 drew pay packets of more than £200,000. In the past 12 months the average salary rose from £153,061 to £165,105. According to Times Higher, the highest earner was Laura Tyson, former director of the London Business School, at £322,000, followed by Sir Richard Sykes, Rector of Imperial College London, on £290,000, and Michael Sterling of Birmingham University, on £250,000. Vice-chancellors of the Russell Group, the 19 leading research universities, commanded the biggest salaries, averaging £217,9 last year, a rise of 8.2 per cent. The overall average rise was 7.9 per cent, more than double the academics’ pay rise.
The Times Higher Education Supplement (February 23) , The Times, The Scotsman

Tough degrees lead men to miss top jobs
Men could be losing out on good jobs by choosing tougher university subjects in which it is more difficult to achieve a top-class degree. While more women are being awarded first class and 2:1 degrees than men in every subject, a report also shows that some students, such as scientists, are more likely to achieve a top-class degree than others, despite having lower A-level scores. According to research by the graduate careers magazine RealWorld and the recruitment consultancy Work, while 87 per cent of psychology students at Russell Group universities - the 19 leading bodies for research - achieve a 2:1 or first, only 63 per cent of maths students reach the same level, despite having markedly better A-level grades.
The Daily Telegraph

Dismay in research community over cuts
Not a science researcher in the country would have been prepared for the unexpected revelation yesterday that vital funding to research councils was to be cut. Without warning, the Department for Trade and Industry announced that due to "historic and new pressures" funding to science research councils would be reduced by £68 million over the next three years - an ominous warning that caught every academic in Britain off guard. It was not the amount of the reduction that was especially significant but rather the message it was sending, according to Peter Cotgreave, director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, who said a "cold chill" would have run down the spine of researchers.
The Guardian

Women given all-clear to donate eggs for use in stem-cell research
Women are to be allowed to donate their eggs to medical researchers for altruistic reasons, regulators agreed yesterday. In the past women have only been allowed to donate spare eggs produced through IVF treatment or medical procedures such as sterilisation. But now the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has agreed that women can donate their eggs for altruistic reasons to help forward research using stem cells to tackle serious diseases.
The Scotsman, The Independent

Birds not so stupid after all
Birds have emerged as strong challengers to chimpanzees and dolphins for the title of our smartest rivals in the animal world, biologists at Cambridge University have concluded. Planning and worrying about the future has always been considered an exclusively human activity, but now at least one species of bird has also been found to plan. "This is the first evidence that an animal can plan for the future," said Professor Nicky Clayton, who led the research team. According to her findings, published in the journal Nature , western scrub-jays will store food items they believe will be in short supply in the future.
The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The Times, Nature

Giant step to discovering alien life
Astronomers have captured enough light from two planets far beyond our own solar system to reveal details of their chemical make-up, marking a new phase in the search for extraterrestrial life. By analysing the faint glow of one of these alien worlds they have found tentative evidence that suggests the presence of chemicals which play a role in one theory of how life began on Earth. The chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, may have helped the formation of RNA, the ancestral genetic material of DNA, the building-blocks of life on our own planet.
The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist

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