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Quick Takes: UT-Brownsville Avoids Fence, Bush Nominee for Higher Education Post, Threats Against Santa Cruz Researchers, NSF and DOD Offer 'Minerva' Details, Open Access and Journal Citations

August 1, 2008
  • After a protracted legal battle, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has backed down on plans to build a security fence that would have cut off part of the joint campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College. The campus is entirely in U.S. territory (although it is very close to the border with Mexico), but the security fences the government is building sometimes do not follow the border precisely. University officials said that cutting off a campus was a terrible way to deal with security concerns. However, as part of the agreement, the university has agreed to make some improvements in its fences.
  • President Bush on Thursday nominated Cheryl A. Oldham, chief of staff to Under Secretary of Education Sara Martinez Tucker, to be acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education for the remaining months of the administration's term. Oldham, who came to the department in 2003 after working in the White House, served as executive director of the Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education.
  • Pamphlets found in a coffee shop in Santa Cruz make threats against researchers at the University of California campus there who do research with animals, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. The material, which included researchers' home addresses, said: "Animal abusers everywhere beware; we know where you live; we know where you work; we will never back down until you end your abuse." Animal rights extremists have made a target of several University of California campuses.
  • The National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense have jointly issued details on grant proposals they are seeking for the "Minerva Initiative," which aims to enlist social scientists in research relevant to U.S. foreign policy, through work on topics such as terrorist organizations, religious fundamentalism, and social dynamics in authoritarian regimes. The NSF involvement is key for many researchers in the social sciences, who are skeptical about the Pentagon's ability to conduct appropriate peer review on these topics. Officials of the American Anthropological Association, who are among those who urged the Pentagon to involve agencies such as the NSF, said that they were studying the government announcement to see if it met all of their concerns.
  • Scholarly papers made freely available in online databases were no more likely to be cited by other scholars in the first year of publication than were those randomly assigned to journals with subscription-only access, according to a study published Thursday in BMJ.
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