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Laura Hood
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Session 1: Global research alliances Welcome to the Research Fortnight live blog, direct from our annual conference at the St Pancras Hotel in London. Speakers for the first session are Lord Bhattacharyya, chairman of Warwick Manufacturing Group, Prof Anton Muscatelli, VC of GLasgow, and Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan, from Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan. The session is chaired by Prof Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of the League of European Research Universities. Lord Bhattacharyya: British research is excellent but my message is not just 'well done, carry on'. There are 4 areas we need to look at: 1. Our research strengths do not match those of our emerging competitors, who focus increasingly in physical sciences and engineering. It's not hard to see why emerging economies should specialise in these areas, they have impact. 2. The UK needs faster growth in partnerships.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2011 at Research Blogs
The coalition government has clearly stated its goal to be the “greenest government ever” but Chancellor George Osborne's speech in Manchester yesterday has sent murmurs around the conference that this commitment is slipping. Osborne appeared to imply that the green agenda represents a threat to growth. Here is the passage that seems to have caused all the upset: “Yes, we must have investment in greener energy. And that’s why I gave the go ahead to the world’s first Green Investment Bank. But Britain makes up less than 2% of the world’s carbon emissions to China and America’s 40%. We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business. So let’s at the very least resolve that we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower but also no faster than our fellow countries in Europe.” In... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2011 at Research Blogs
Welcome to Research Fortnight's Cuts in Culture live blog from Bafta. Our first session today is Policy in Context: Challenging or Inspiring Creativity? Our speakers are Lord Denis Stevenson; Ivan Lewis, shadow secretary of state for culture media and sport; Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre; and Peter Scott, professor of higher education at the Institute of Education. Their chairman is Charles Saumarez Smith, secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts. News, instant analysis and comment on what was said. Read from the bottom up. That's the end of the first cuts in culture session - Elizabeth Gibney continued the coverage on Cuts in Culture conference live blog - 2 11.00 talking about breaking out of silos, as Jude Kelly mentioned earlier. Ivan Lewis says the problem is the same in government. Over nine years... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2011 at Research Blogs
Some of the UK’s top arts and humanities institutions get little or no money from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Joseph Milton and Laura Hood report. A swathe of medium-sized universities as well as a handful of the elite get little Arts and Humanities Research Council funding, despite scoring well in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, an analysis by Research Fortnight shows. Using the Research Benchmarks tool, Research Fortnight tabulated the amount of AHRC funding received by each UK university in 2009-10 and compared it with a ranking of research quality in the arts and humanities. The tables on this page show that while many of the higher quality research-intensive institutions, such as the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London, receive AHRC funding that reflects their strong performance in the RAE, others fare badly.... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2011 at Research Blogs
Universities and science minister David Willetts has landed in hot water over his remarks about feminism ahead of the launch of the UK government’s social mobility strategy. But this is not the first time ‘Two Brains’ has courted controversy with his views on the effects of feminism on work, life and the family. Willetts spoke about the importance of family at the 2008 Conservative party conference, where he reportedly linked the surge in female graduates to family breakdown. On rising unemployment among men, he is quoted at the conference as saying: “They are no longer given the opportunity to bring home the bacon, and the evidence is that that is bad for families.” If Willetts takes this view on family life in general, can we really expect him to be proactive in encouraging women and girls to take up careers... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2011 at Research Blogs
This afternoon, the House of Lords will debate and vote on the government's proposals to raise tuition fees in English universities to up to £9,000. William Cullerne Bown and Laura Hood will be blogging below as it all happens. Bookmark this page and come back at any time for by-the-moment news, instant analysis and comment on what is said. No fancy technology. Refresh your browser for updates. Read from the bottom up. ********* 20:37 No real surprises in this result, it appeared clear from the start that the government would prevail. However, Triesman put up a good fight. This blog will be updated when the individual votes are published, but for now, we are signing out. Thanks everyone for joining. 20:22 And the proposal to increase to £9k is passed 273 votes for to 200 votes against 20.15 Next the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2010 at Research Blogs
The government is to abolish the position of Director General of Science and Research at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Research Fortnight has learnt. The DGSR post, which pays a salary of around £165,000, is to disappear as part of a wider shake-up at the top of BIS. In a letter to staff, Permanent Secretary Martin Donnelly confirmed the department will be organised under just three policy groups from the next financial year. Science, research, universities and space will now sit inside a new group called Knowledge and Innovation. “This [Knowledge and Innovation] grouping spans elements of three of the existing groups, so it has not proved possible to do a match for this post,” Donnelly wrote in the letter. “Having consulted the Cabinet Office I have concluded there should therefore be a competition to fill the new... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2010 at Research Blogs
The chief executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts announced he is quitting the post just days before a leaked government document revealed the organisation is not yet safe from abolition. 
In a letter to leaders of science organisations dated 21 September, Jonathan Kestenbaum revealed that he is leaving NESTA to take over the helm of Five Arrows Ltd from owner Jacob Rothschild.
 On 24 September, a document leaked to the BBC revealed that NESTA’s future is “still to be decided” as part of a government cull of arms length bodies.
 There are 180 bodies on the leaked list that are to be abolished and a further 124 that will be merged, the BBC reports. Although NESTA’s future is still up in the air its leader is departing at a crucial time. 
“It will be a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2010 at Research Blogs
The Institute of Chemical Engineering appears to have had a curious change of heart in the wake of yesterday’s gloomy speech from Vince Cable. The organisation has responded to the news that the science budget faces cuts by saying that the search for the Higgs Boson should be put on ice. In a statement released yesterday, Andy Furlong, head of policy at the IChemE said the following: "Innovative process engineering is central to the quest for solutions and it's important that spending should be directed towards these areas. The UK is well placed to secure a competitive advantage in emerging fields with attractive revenue generating potential, such as industrial biotechnology. Curiosity driven scientific research remains important and pure science has enjoyed a real boost over the last decade. But the financial crisis has changed the game and a shift of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2010 at Research Blogs
The Institution of Chemical Engineers has come down on the side of physicists in the row between the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Physics ahead of October’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The RAEng wrote to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills earlier this month calling on the government to reconsider its support for fundamental research, and of particle physics in particular, in favour of science that could provide more short-term economic returns.In a letter sent today to Research Fortnight, signed jointly by David Brown, chief executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of the Institute of Physics, the government is urged to continue backing basic research. The text of the letter is as follows: Sir, The UK’s future will not be helped by a ‘battle’ for funds between basic research and engineering... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2010 at Research Blogs
A few weeks ago I met up with Melvyn Bragg to talk about his appointment as an associate fellow of the Royal Society. Discussions quickly turned to funding cuts, a subject about which he evidently feels very strongly. And he knows who to blame: “I worry about politicians. Not enough of them are well enough educated in science,” he told me. “I think they have smattering but they’re not sympathetic to what is the most necessary area of our future and probably the liveliest area of our intellectual life. It’s a failure, a political failure on the biggest scale. Thank God for the House of Lords where you’ve got so many great scientists.” He is also furious at the thought of cutting science just to balance the books. “It’s a sort of declaration of a paralysed mind if the only... Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2010 at Research Blogs
A respected Oxford physicist has called for Philip Greenish, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, to resign from the UK’s top particle physics funding body. Brian Foster, a professor of experimental physics at Oxford, says that Greenish’s position at the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which controls particle physics funding, is untenable since the Academy called on the government to redirect funding away from physics to support engineering. “Greenish’s position is clearly intolerable,” says Foster. “He’s in the position of being a member of the council of an organisation, all of whose Royal Charter aims he has rubbished.” Foster, a former chairman of Institute of Physics Nuclear and Particle Physics Division, is the first senior physicist to go on the record on the subject. But many members of the IoP are understood to be furious with RAE members... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2010 at Research Blogs
Infighting has broken out among the leaders of the UK research elite as professional societies move to protect their disciplines from promised spending cuts. The often fragile consensus that existed among professional scientific societies has collapsed with the Royal Academy of Engineering the first to argue its corner, saying that engineering is more important to the UK than basic science. In a submission to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the academy calls explicitly for particle physics to be cut. The academy says that since most particle physics goes on at Cern, the field makes “a lower contribution to the intellectual infrastructure of the UK compared to other disciplines”. It argues that this field of fundamental science makes only a “modest” contribution to the challenges facing society compared with engineering and technology. In a letter accompanying the submission, academy... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2010 at Research Blogs
The rigour and honesty of climate researchers at the University of East Anglia is not in doubt, nor has their conduct undermined the findings of the IPCC, an independent review into the ‘climategate’ affair has concluded. However, the panel, led by Muir Russell, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, found a “consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness” among the scientists and the university. The review says that UEA failed to acknowledge the importance of its statutory duties in relation to freedom of information requests and the risk that failure could pose to the institution and climate science in general. This is the third and final investigation of the conduct of UEA scientists after its internal emails were hacked and leaked onto the internet in November. It has looked specifically at how the group... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2010 at Research Blogs
Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, was elected chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee last week, having previously been a member between 1992 and 1997. He told me that getting better information to parliament and the wider public will be crucial if UK science is to survive the years ahead. What are your plans for the committee? I want to focus on two immediate priorities: one is the protection of the UK science base, which, if you read between the lines, needs some protection. That is going to be hugely important for the next couple of years until we can say the worst is over in terms of the recession. I think David Willetts is being genuine when he says he understands the case for science but we need to make sure that... Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2010 at Research Blogs
Yesterday my colleague Brian Owens pointed out that BIS were nervous about publishing David Willetts’ speech at Oxford Brookes University. This morning we found that the department has published “extracts” from the address. BIS has generously given us the opportunity to identify exactly which parts of the speech were considered too risqué to be published on the department’s own website. So we did a quick comparison of the full text of the speech with the “authorised version”. Three passages are gone, amounting to about 500 words. The missing sections are those in which the new minister is criticising decisions made by the Labour government. This is the “political” part of the speech that BIS cited as a reason for not posting the complete speech in the first place. Here’s an example: “Last Autumn, when Labour was planning a cut in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2010 at Research Blogs
We've just been hearing at the Association of Research Managers and Administrators meeting in Manchester from two of the universities taking part in the Higher Education Funding Council for England's impact pilot exercise—a session which seemed to raise more questions than it answered. Staff from University College London and Bristol told us about the challenges they have faced in the programme, during which they have each prepared two practice impact submissions to the Research Excellence Framework. The task involved gathering case studies in four disciplines—English and clinical medicine for UCL and physics and social policy for Bristol. UCL found the exercise “very, very time consuming” and struggled to separate academic impact from wider impact. English was a particularly problematic field. Its researchers were also unhappy that HEFCE does not consider that the training of skilled people counts as impact. The... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2010 at Research Blogs
A “whole useless industry” could be created if impact assessment continues to be given such a predominant place in the proposed Research Excellence Framework, quipped Nick Petford during this morning's plenary session here at the 2010 Association of Research Managers and Administrators conference in Manchester. Petford, the outgoing pro-vice chancellor for research at Bournemouth, came to ARMA to present the views of the University Alliance on research funding. He suggested that universities could end up spending valuable QR funding on impact studies and even predicted that we will start to see professors of impact studies cropping up. The Alliance wants the REF to be divided into 15 per cent impact, 70 per cent outputs and 15 per cent environment. Impact considerations are certainly essential when undertaking publicly funded research, Petford suggested. But he questioned its use in the REF. Also... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2010 at Research Blogs
Bill Hubbard, head of the University of Nottingham's Centre for Research Communications, has just revealed a figure that many will find rather surprising—just 40 per cent of Wellcome Trust grantees comply with the charity's open access requirements, even though they are supposed to be mandatory. Hubbard says that compliance among research council grantees is even lower. Yet failing to publish research openly under these circumstances can have negative repercussions for an institution as it seeks funding in the future. One delegate suggested that academics simply don't appreciate the negative consequences, which can appear to be an empty threat. Hubbard has several anecdotes to back up his support of open access, including the interesting tale of the discredited medic Andrew Wakefield. He says that Wakefield made his research available to the press but that the papers that counteracted his claims about... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2010 at Research Blogs
The Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University is to axe 70 jobs as it attempts to survive a £2.4 million funding deficit. The institute is to restructure after it found that a 15 per cent reduction in public funding would leave it with the multi-million pound hole in its finances by the end of the 2011-12 financial year. It has said that compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out when the 70 positions are cut but that it will seek to achieve as many as possible through redeployment within the university, voluntary redundancies and early retirement. The institute is a relatively new venture for Aberystwyth, having been launched in 2008 through a merger with the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research in Gogerddan, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. This came with a five-year... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2010 at Research Blogs
The Welsh Assembly Government has finally announced the name of the man who will take on the role of chief scientific adviser, and he’s Welsh! After much head scratching, the Assembly has appointed John Harries, a professor of Earth observation at Imperial College’s Blackett Laboratory, and a member of its Grantham Institute for Climate Research. He will start the job on 1 May. The appointment follows months of speculation and a dark period last year during which the assembly was thought to be considering scrapping the position entirely due to a lack of funds. Former first minister Rhodri Morgan commissioned a report as long ago as 2007 to look at whether or not the Assembly needed its own CSA. However, it took until June 2009 for the Assembly to confirm that the position would be created and until now to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2010 at Research Blogs
Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament, is backing plans to construct the European Extremely Large Telescope in the Canary Islands, Research Europe has learned. Buzek will announce his support for the project on 3 February, paving the way for debates on whether the location for the 1 billion euro telescope should be chosen according scientific or socio-economic factors. A European Southern Observatory team is currently considering a number of sites for the project, including the Canary Islands, home to the European Northern Observatory, and Chile, where ESO's Southern Observatory is based. The group is due to report back to the ESO council during its meeting in March, although some believe it is unlikely that a final decision will be made on the spot. Meanwhile, a delegation from the European Parliament is to visit the Roque de los Muchachos... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2010 at Research Blogs
The snow that fell over Westminster today could not muffle the sound of an axe dropping rather heavily in a building behind the Abbey. Here, the Science and Technology Facilities Council announced major cuts to its programme and confirmed that it is shifting cash away from nuclear and particle physics in order to focus support on areas that have been identified as government priorities. The council’s five-year programme for 2010 to 2015 introduces a 25 per cent reduction in studentships and fellowships—an “unpalatable decision” that had to be made, according to Keith Mason. It also includes withdrawing from over 20 projects and a cut of 10 per cent from the grant funding used to exploit facilities. Jobs are also at risk at the Daresbury and Harwell science campuses as part of an attempt to save £11 million from the STFC’s... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2009 at Research Blogs
The UK is to have its own space agency, the government announced this afternoon. The agency will replace the British National Space Centre in a bid to bring greater efficiency and clout to the sector. The agency, which doesn’t seem to have a name yet, will consolidate the efforts of all the bodies that currently oversee space activities—a total of six government departments as well as two of the research councils, the Technology Strategy Board and the Met Office. The decision follows a public consultation on how the government should structure its space efforts in the future to make the most out of the UK’s technological strength in the field. “Our space sector hasn't missed a beat during this recession. This is the classic story of outstanding UK science and entrepreneurship continuing to create jobs and achieve exceptional growth,” science... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2009 at Research Blogs
The government is to rework the terms of engagement for using scientific advice, science minister Paul Drayson has confirmed. Drayson says that the government will endorse the recommendations set out by a group of scientists in Principles for the Treatment of Independent Scientific Advice and that a set of rules governing science advisory bodies will be prepared by Christmas. The science minister will work with the signatories of the principles on the terms as well as other government scientific advisers. The principles, which were signed by a number of respected scientists, including Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, and former chief scientific adviser Bob May, state that speaking out about policy issues should not constitute grounds for dismissal when a scientist is advising the government in an unpaid capacity and that advisory boards should be allowed to operate without... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2009 at Research Blogs