World in brief - 13 March 2014

March 13, 2014

United States
Bright ideas on the block

A US university is to auction off some of its intellectual property licences. Successful bidders will obtain licensing rights to patents derived from research carried out in Pennsylvania State University’s College of Engineering. Ron Huss, associate vice-president for research and technology transfer, said he believes the auction is the first conducted directly by a US university. “Penn State and other research universities typically have IP that has been marketed by their tech transfer offices but for a variety of reasons has not been picked up by a commercial entity and therefore sits on the proverbial shelf,” Dr Huss said. “This is an effort to get our IP off the shelf and in the hands of companies that can use the technology, at very favourable terms and price points.” Some 70 engineering patents in areas such as acoustics and fuel cells will be available, the university said.

Get out of here – it’ll do you good

Australian universities have been advised to work harder to promote study-abroad opportunities to students. Kent Anderson, pro vice-chancellor (international) at the University of Adelaide, said that institutions face the challenge of creating credit-earning overseas study experiences that will increase demand for placements under the New Colombo Plan, which offers Australian undergraduates the opportunity to take up scholarships and grants for study, internships and mentorships in the Indo-Pacific region. “Most of us are aiming for at least one-third of our domestic students to have that [international] experience,” Professor Anderson said, adding that he hoped to lift Adelaide’s outward mobility to about 25 per cent by 2017-18. Currently about one in 10 undergraduates takes up study abroad, but foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said that she wanted to see undertaking study in the region to become a student “rite of passage”, The Australian reported.

The need of the hour: research

A large number of PhD holders in India “do not bother” to undertake research after their doctorate, according to a former government official. C. S. Nagaraju, former head of the department of educational research and policy planning at the National Council of Educational Research and Training, made the comments at the launch of a new course in educational research at the University of Mysore. Professor Nagaraju said that many individuals undertake research just to get a doctorate, The Times of India reported. “Around 30-40 per cent of research is being carried out on individual interest, and not for the welfare of society,” he said, urging universities to “concentrate more on research…this is the need of the hour”. Research undertaken by scholars, he said, must “generate policy to see that social justice is ensured”.

Officials punished for exam fraud

Officials at a Chinese university have been punished after 20 of its students were found to have cheated in an MBA exam. The Heilongjiang provincial Department of Education censured the president of the Harbin University of Science and Technology and issued a demerit for one of its vice-presidents. Five other officials at the university have also been punished, with some dismissed and others given “inner-Party” warnings, the Xinhua news agency reported. Wang Haiyu, general office director of Harbin’s MBA centre, is under police investigation, and the students have been banned from sitting any national education exam in the next three years.

Entrance test? Easy as AI

Japanese researchers are attempting to create a computer program that is capable of passing an entrance exam for one of the country’s leading universities. The research project, which began in 2011 and is titled Can a Robot Get into the University of Tokyo?, aims to discover how quickly artificial intelligence might replace the human brain to allow humans to begin developing skills in completely new areas. “If society as a whole can see a possible change coming in the future, we can get prepared now,” Noriko Arai of Japan’s National Institute of Informatics told the Kyodo news agency. If it transpires that machines cannot match human beings’ performance on these measures, then “we need to clarify what is missing and move to develop the technology”, Professor Arai added.

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