Quick Takes: $600M for Top Biomedical Scientists, Microsoft Ends Digitizing Project, Land-Grants Affirm Animal Research, San Diego Ethics Report, Departing WVU Profs Cite President, Israel Deports Finkelstein, Women Wrestlers, Orphaned Cat/Runaway Pig

May 27, 2008
  • The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is today naming 56 biomedical scientists who will collectively receive $600 million for their work. Awards in the institute's investigator program are notable both for their scale and in that they go to individuals, not for specific projects as would be the case for funding from the National Institutes of Health or most other supporters of biomedical research. The idea is to pick some of the very best researchers and give them leeway on their work, to encourage greater risk-taking.
  • Microsoft announced Friday that it is ending two projects designed to digitize books and journals. While Microsoft's project was not as large (nor as controversial) as Google's book digitization effort, both programs attracted considerable attention among academic publishers. A statement from Microsoft said it recognized that the news would be "disappointing" to those who worked with the company on the books and journals. But the company plans to focus its digitization and search work on other sectors, such as travel, the announcement said.
  • Following a series of attacks on professors who use animals in research, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges on Friday reaffirmed its support for studies with animals. "The use of animals in scientific research continues to provide the basis for critical innovations that have benefited our country and the global community. Through research involving animals, scientists at NASULGC institutions have advanced biomedicine, human nutrition and health, food production, food safety, biodefense, and animal health and welfare. Scientific research also has provided the basis for federal guidelines for the welfare, feeding and housing of animals," a statement from the group says. It adds: "Unfortunately, a few individuals express their opposition to the use of animals by harassing, intimidating or using violence against researchers, their staff, and their families and/or destroying facilities and harming animals. We find such behavior unacceptable under any circumstances and condemn it.”
  • A grand jury in San Diego County will release a report today that criticizes the behavior of three local community colleges and urges the county to establish an ethics committee focused on two-year institutions, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The grand jury report, which Inside Higher Ed obtained, is largely anecdotal, specifically recounting three recent controversies at Mira Costa and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges and Southwestern College and discussing without names attached several other situations on which the grand jury heard testimony, including one in which "a trustee is engaged in a romantic relationship with a senior administrator."
  • Three professors who are leaving West Virginia University for positions elsewhere say that they were motivated in part over the scandal over a degree inappropriately awarded to a politically connected executive, and the refusal of the president, Mike Garrison, to step down as the faculty has demanded, The Charleston Gazette reported.
  • Israeli security forces detained and then deported Norman Finkelstein when he arrived in the country Friday, Haaretz reported. Shin Bet, the Israeli security force, said that Finkelstein has been banned from the country "because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon." Finkelstein is a harsh critic of Israel's government, and the harsh style of that criticism played a role in his tenure denial at DePaul University last year, but he told the Israeli newspaper that he didn't have ties to any terrorist groups and supported the right of Israel to exist.
  • Just as many colleges continue to add football to diversify their student offerings, in part as a way to attract men, some small institutions are adding sports for women. Not just any sport, though, but one that has historically been an exclusively male domain: wrestling. Missouri Baptist University and Jamestown College are among the institutions that are starting new programs this fall, joining others such as Oklahoma City University and Menlo College, according to The New York Times. The mini-boom has been inspired in part by the inclusion of women's wrestling as an Olympic sport in 2004, which sparked an interest in the sport among American high school women.
  • Animal news in higher ed: When a wealthy alumnus died, he left Juniata College everything -- an estate worth $6.5 million and also his cat, Princess, ThePittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The college's director of planned giving found a new home for Princess. Colby College, meanwhile, has been trying without success to catch a pot-bellied pig, the pet of an identified student, which escaped during a student event and has since been roaming the campus, The Morning Sentinel reported. Colby officials have managed to get close to the pig, and had hopes of throwing a net over him, but he eluded capture, leading the college to set up traps that might end his status as -- in the words of a college spokesman -- a "free range pig."
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