Update 12:30

May 9, 2002

Commons grilling for 'elitist' Royal Society
The 340-year-old Royal Society was forced to defend itself during a 75-minute grilling by MPs yesterday. Royal Society president Lord May faced a barrage of questions from the House of Commons’ science and technology committee on Wednesday. Committee chairman Iain Gibson asked the witnesses to justify the £25 million received by the society this year from public funds. He suggested that the research councils could run the society’s research fellowship schemes. Lord May said the society was elitist in the same way that the England football team was elitist. But he added that the society’s selection process was more democratic than Sven Goran Eriksson’s. Dame Julia admitted that only the Indian and French equivalents of the Royal Society had lower porportions of women fellows but she said that it reflected the number of women at the top of UK science. The society admitted that it had no ethnic minority monitoring process.

Oxford student rewarded for bravery
A medical student who helped rescue 15 fellow rowers after a boating accident on a Spanish river is to be presented with the Royal Humane Society’s silver medal today. Hugh Wright, 23, a member of the Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club, swam across the river after freak weather conditions caused their boats to overturn during a training exercise on the River Ebro in Portugal in December 2000. He also tried to save Leo Blockley, 21, who died after being swept away, before swimming 100 metres to shore to raise the alarm.

Bug reveals medical 'treasure trove'
Scientists have unlocked a treasure trove of genetic material from a common soil bug that could be used to make new antibiotics and other medicines, it was disclosed today. A British-led team of researchers today unveiled the entire genome of S. coelicolor , showing more than 20 gene clusters used to make antibiotics and other compounds with therapeutic potential. The scientists are based at the John Innes Soil Institute in Norwich, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute at Hinxton Cambridge, the University of Warwick and the National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan.

Scots FE must tackle deficits, warns watchdog
Scottish colleges that are in the red must do more to balance their books, the country’s top financial watchdog warned today. Robert Black, Scotland’s auditor general, spoke following the second annual report into the finances of further education colleges. The Audit Scotland report found that by July 31 2001, 22 colleges recorded accumulated deficits totalling over £30 million, including ten colleges with deficits exceeding £1 million.

Northern Ireland unveils £2m library
Queen’s University Belfast has opened a £2 million medical library at the Royal Victoria Hospital that will serve not only university staff and students but also health care professionals across Northern Ireland. The funding comes from Queen’s, the hospital, the department for employment and learning, and the department of health, social service and public safety.

Second serving for Aberdeen's cook
Celebrity cook and broadcaster Clarissa Dickson Wright is today installed for a second term as the student-elected rector of Aberdeen University. Ms Dickson Wright made history in 1998 when she became the first female rector of Aberdeen in its 500-year history.

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