Women in white coats

November 20, 1998

"You do not have to be very intelligent or confident to be a scientist." University scientists were no doubt relieved that they failed to feature in a government poster campaign designed to get girls into science, given that this was one of the key messages.

The campaign features six young women in careers as varied as forensic science, pharmaceuticals and aviation. It aims to show girls that scientists are not just men in white coats, but young women just like them. Young women who are not "very intelligent" or confident, that is. Would you want one to pilot you?

DEGREES OF MURDER

"`How does the research assessment exercise work?' Hackett asked."

Sergeant Hackett thinks the RAE might have killed Professor Wilkinson. But after listening to an explanation of how it works Hackett is none the wiser.

"The assessors work out an average grade for the department, then compare it across all of the biology departments, so that a ranking may be given, from one to five. Most would feel content with a three."

But Hackett does learn that the RAE makes academics very, very angry, in fact, "dreadfully upset".

"Wouldn't you be, asked to justify your job, your funding, your research to members of the fraternity who have a vested interest in depriving you of that position, divesting you of your funding and rubbishing your research?" Sound familiar? Read Margaret Murphy's murder mystery, Caging the Tiger, and find out if the RAE really is to blame.

THAMES GOES SLOW

Thames Valley University's branch of lecturers' union Natfhe has decided to give new acting vice-chancellor Sir William Taylor a bit of a breathing space. The union was to ballot on industrial action in protest at new academic contracts on his first day. But they have delayed the vote. How considerate.

FAT IS A STUDENT ISSUE

The student-elected rectors of Scotland's four ancient universities have in the past tended to be sparkling celebrities. More recently, students have gone for "working rectors" who will give them practical support. Some Aberdeen University students hope to get the best of both worlds by nominating culinary expert Clarissa Dickson-Wright, one half of television's Two Fat Ladies. She says she could "lend them decent tips on how to eat well on a very low budget". The election is next week.

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