Should PhDs accept to have a mere student status?

Some of the rights and benefits of being considered as an employee could soon be swept from under the feet of many Dutch PhDs. A new proposal by Dutch Labour Party Minister Jet Bussemaker has reignited a long term debate on the subject. The move, backed by universities, is considered by researchers’ organisations as depriving PhDs of many rights and benefits. This shows that for every step forward in helping the working conditions of scientists —among others, through the introduction, ten years ago, of the European Charter for Researchers— it is only too easy to slide backwards, according to an opinion piece by Eurodoc president, John Peacock.

Utrecht staff and students say no to physics cuts

Bright and early on 3 January 2011, 140 physics lecturers, students and other staff at Utrecht University in the Netherlands made their way from the physics department to the offices of the university administration. The purpose of the demonstration was to submit a petition objecting to proposed cutbacks, and to the removal of department head Casper Erkelens after he refused to sign a document agreeing to the reforms.

Nightmare on Academia Street: an English horror story coming to a campus near you

Any politician that dangles the carrot of a graduate premium on future earnings to justify increases in student fees, interest rates on loans, or adjusting student loan repayment thresholds, should be challenged for gross mis-selling. These are the findings of a recent report by the UK Intergenerational Foundation. In this opinion piece, the author of the report warns of the possible financial implications of postgraduate student loans for the future financial health of students and their career prospects. This phenomenon, particularly acute in the UK, could soon reach other countries in Europe, should they be tempted to follow suit.

Emmanuelle Charpentier: European research funding could do with less red tape

In the second instalment of a two-part series, Emmanuelle Charpentier, head of regulation and infection biology at the Max-Planck-Institut in Berlin, Germany, gives her opinion on the challenges in obtaining research funding in the current system in Europe. She also shares her views on how mobility can be hampered by bureaucracy. Finally, she points to the limited coherence for scientists pursuing a research career in Europe. Clearly, many efforts have yet to be made to improve the condition of scientists in Europe.

Endangered Waters: saving Europe’s most iconic fish species

A network of young scientists demonstrated that they have a unique role to play in helping to protect endangered fish species. Specifically, they are involved in developing better production strategies for salmon, eels and sturgeons, under the umbrella of a European project called IMPRESS. To develop conservation solutions through innovative research, they seek to pair their research objectives with understanding the needs of fishing communities and conservation policy makers. This example shows the potential for evidence-based policies can make a difference to wild fish species.

A goldmine to partly replace animal testing

Public databases of the toxic effects of chemicals that have been registered under the REACH directive have been sitting idle for too long. In an opinion piece, Thomas Hartung explains how the development of software by his team at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, at Johns Hopkins University, USA, helps make sense of the large volume of chemical database content. Now that they made such data machine readable, expectations are that it will soon be possible to provide open access to such public database. Ultimately, this could substantially decrease the number of animal tests. Indeed, the database makes it possible to do so-called read-across, allowing to infer toxicity of heaps of untested chemicals from existing data on chemicals of similar structure, which have already been tested.