Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Furloughs for state school profs" - blog post from The Scientist

This hasn't happened at UMass Amherst yet... [To see the full article, click on the title of this posting]

Posted in The Scientist by Jef Akst
[Entry posted 22nd July 2009]

Universities across the US are forcing their employees to take unpaid leave, effectively reducing the salary budget without reflecting pay cuts on paper. But for most researchers, who cannot easily pause their studies, what furloughs really amount to is a simple reduction in income -- the same amount of work for less money.

Image: Flickr/hoyasmeg
"Especially in the sciences, [professors can't just stop] laboratory experiments or any ongoing monitoring they're doing," said John Curtis, Director of Research and Public Policy at the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). "In most cases, [the end result is] just that they get a pay cut."

Last week (July 16), the University of California Board of Regents enacted a furlough plan to save $184.1 million by requiring their employees to take between 11 and 26 days of unpaid leave, amounting to a 4-10% reduction in pay. But the UC system isn't the first; several US schools have been quietly implementing similar plans in the past several months. The problem, of course, is that faculty aren't 9-to-5 employees, and walking away from academic work can be like trying to escape your own shadow.

"The teaching load is not being reduced, [nor] the expectations for producing," Curtis said. "It's something we really hadn't heard of except in isolated cases, and then all of a sudden this spring, probably about 12 public colleges or universities announced furloughs of one kind or another."


Monday, July 20, 2009

DNA may differ between tissues - blog post from The Scientist

Posted in The Scientist by Bob Grant on 20th July 2009 04:52 PM GMT. Click on the title above to see the full blog posting, which begins:

Recent findings may spell trouble for genome-wide association studies based on DNA obtained through blood samples: Genetic material may vary between blood cells and other tissues in a single individual, a study in the July issues of Human Mutation reports.

Image: Wikimedia
The study "raises a very interesting question," Howard Edenberg, director of the Indiana University School of Medicine's center for medical genomics, told The Scientist. Many genome-wide association studies -- especially studies on systemic diseases such as diabetes and atherosclerosis -- depend solely upon DNA harvested from blood samples to identify genes associated with medical conditions. But this study "suggests that looking only at blood, you may miss some things."

Searching for the genes behind a fatal condition called abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), researchers from McGill University in Montreal found that complementary DNA from diseased abdominal aortic tissue did not match genomic DNA from leukocytes in blood from the same patient. "We did not expect to find a difference in the tissue [genes] compared to the leukocyte [genes]," said endocrinologist Morris Schweitzer, who led the study.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ACS To Go Electronic Only

The Chronicle of Higher Education and Ars Technica report that the American Chemical Society, publisher of journals such as Chemical Reviews, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Langmuir, and Nano Letters (to name a few), is preparing to publish their content electronically only and step away from print production.

What impact will this have? Both reports have some interesting comments.