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Quick Takes: Chu and Duncan Share Views, Georgia GOP vs. Stem Cell Studies, When 'or More' Isn't Enough, Part-Time MBA Woes, Israel Programs Dropped, Vatican Praises Shifts in Seminaries, Classes on Good Friday Restored, Grow Your Own Research Subjects

January 19, 2009
  • For a final, pre-inaugural look at some of the higher ed policies of the incoming Cabinet members, the Obama transition team is posting videos of some nominees discussing key issues. Steven Chu, the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics who is about to become energy secretary, discusses the science of climate change and strategies for promoting energy and environmental research. One common suggestion is that the government sponsor a research effort similar to the Manhattan Project -- and Chu appears skeptical. While he says that he favors an intense effort in this area, he notes that the Manhattan Project research was highly centralized and secret. In contrast, he says energy research needs to be "very open," and involving many players, with universities and national laboratories conducting research and then working with businesses to apply the research. In his video, Arne Duncan, the Chicago schools chief about to become education secretary, endorses "alternate routes" to the teaching profession and simplification of federal financial aid forms.
  • With Barack Obama expected to lift strict federal restrictions on federal support for stem cell research, Republicans in Georgia are preparing to ban the studies at state universities, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Georgia lawmakers enacted legislation in 2006 to bar the use of state funds for the research, and the expected lifting of the federal ban could make it possible for public university researchers to conduct studies without state funds. Scientists, who generally have opposed limits set by President Bush, have been looking forward to Obama following through on his pledge to end the limits.
  • Sometimes a truthful answer is less than complete. The Wall Street Journal reported that the latest biomedical researcher to draw the attention of Sen. Charles Grassley in his campaign against conflicts of interest is Thomas A. Zdeblick, chair of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Complying with his university's reporting requirements, Zdeblick disclosed in several years that he received "$20,000 or more" or "$40,000 or more" from the medical company Medtronic. He was accurate, but it turns out that over several years, he received $19 million from Medtronic. The medical school's dean acknowledged that the reporting requirements are insufficient, but noted that Zdeblick complied with them. Harvard University's medical school, which has also come under scrutiny over conflict of interest issues, has created a committee to review its policies, Bloomberg reported.
  • Many business schools are reporting increased interest in M.B.A. programs, which tend to be more popular when the job market has fewer options. But as The Boston Globe reported, some part-time or evening M.B.A. programs are hurting and seeing enrollment declines. Many of these programs enroll students whose tuition is paid in full or part by their employers, and many employers are cutting back on such reimbursements. Further, some potential students are hesitant to cut back on work hours in economically tough times.
  • Citing the unrest in Gaza, several universities have called off study abroad programs in Israel. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania have suspended programs, although some students may still go to Israel through other programs. Duke University made a similar announcement.
  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a report by the Vatican evaluating seminaries in the United States and finding them generally to be healthy intellectually and improved over previous evaluations. The report notes "a greater sense of stability" and "notable" progress, especially in seminaries run by Roman Catholic dioceses, and praised efforts to resolve difficulties due to "the long-standing presence of some problematic faculty members." Past reports by the Vatican expressed concern about a gay presence in some seminaries. The report said that in most cases, "such difficulties have been overcome," although it also says that some seminaries "are not always aware of what the seminarians are doing off campus."
  • Mid-State Technical College, in Wisconsin, will in the future be open on Good Friday, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. The college announced the shift after a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which noted that a federal judge had declared in 1996 that the state could not observe Good Friday as a state holiday. The foundation was informed of the situation by a student, who noted that the college did not observe Martin Luther King Day as a holiday, while it did observe Good Friday as a day off.
  • More scientists are using their own children as research subjects, The New York Times reported. While some see this as a creative and inexpensive way to get valuable data, others see ethical problems.
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