Reporter 426, 2 November 1998

News in brief

Computing review

A review of the organisation and management of computing services across the campus has been initiated by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Communications and Information Technology, Lynne Brindley.

Larch Consulting has been selected by tender to carry out the review of the Administrative Computing Service and the University Computing Service. “An important part of the review will be an assessment of the skills profile of staff to ensure that appropriate skills are available and developed to meet our requirements, now and in the future,” said Mrs Brindley.

“Historic boundaries between the responsibilities of the two groups have become blurred and there is some duplication of effort. We are seeking an organisational structure that will provide real ownership and accountability for computing services as a whole and ways to enhance and develop support to users throughout the University”.

It is envisaged that the two groups will converge and the consultants will report by the end of the year.

Contract thrillers

Praise for the University’s development and review schemes for contract staff has come from the Office of Science and Technology (OST) Research and Careers Initiative.

Following a recent visit to Leeds, the OST noted: “Leeds has invested considerable and commendable effort at an institutional level to improve staff development and review. There is a wealth of training provision and a good model for reviewing staff needs.”

Human Resources Director Matthew Knight said staff were currently being consulted about measures to improve the schemes still further. The revised schemes will be widely publicised.

Outcrop circled

The protection of a remote granite outcrop the size of Greater London in the Namib Desert is the subject of one of the first research projects based at the University’s new Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation.

The Brandberg Massif outcrop is already attracting considerable tourism despite its remote location, and the research is needed to ensure its ecology is preserved. Director Professor Bryan Shorrocks said that the Centre’s unique approach to the issue of biodiversity makes it ideal to conduct such a study. “Our 120 research staff are drawn from many different disciplines. This allows us, for example, to integrate the large-scale approach of the geographers with the smaller-scale expertise of the biologists,” he said.

The Brandberg Massif project is being carried out jointly with Raleigh International and the University of Namibia and is due to begin later this year.

Siberian shave

A trip to the University careers service sent a third year geography student to the deepest lake in the world for two weeks – where she discovered a 50,000 year old flint razor blade. Heather Monteith spent two weeks working on the Baikal Lake in eastern Russia as part of an international Earthwatch research team after she successfully applied for an environmental fellowship. The lake is over a mile deep and Heather was working to assess the impact of local industry on its unique self-purifying system. The research team also carried out an archaeological dig at a site on the Angora river, where they uncovered a range of Palaeolithic tools, including the primitive razor blade and a hand axe.

Help with health

Two health visitors taking Masters degrees in the School of Healthcare Studies have been awarded scholarships to help patients benefit directly from their research. Rosemary Burridge, an Independent Practice MA student in Healthcare Studies, will use her award to study whether health visitors, midwives and nurses are adequately prepared to assist women involved in domestic violence.

Christine Hodson, also an Independent Practice MA student, will investigate how health visitors see their role within the Government’s new emphasis on public health, which is both threatening and providing extra opportunities for health visitors. The scholarships, from the Smith & Nephew Foundation, were presented by Junior Health Minister Paul Boateng, earlier this month.

ET radio

An alien-hunting postgraduate has recorded his search for extra-terrestrials in an essay described by the National Institute for Discovery Science as ‘outstanding’. Is anybody out there? details the efforts of John Elliott to detect signs of alien intelligence in radio waves, which he says, are a natural candidate for any advanced civilisation to use as a deliberate beacon. “Even a very backward technological civilisation should stumble across radio relatively early in their exploration of the physical world,” he said. By looking for patterns in the signals received he hopes to be able to reply to any inter-galaxy communication “ as one would an email.” The essay is available on the NIDS website at

Koyo to technician

A prize-winning technician in the Centre for Polymer Science and Technology has been honoured after he designed a major modification to the centre’s die drawing facility. Steve Caddick will receive the Koyo Award for outstanding achievement in engineering from the Mayor of Barnsley at a ceremony organised by Barnsley College, were Mr Caddick was studying a HNC in mechanical engineering.

Bombay batman

An amateur batman from the University recently gave the first talk to the Bombay Natural History Society about the conservation of the flying mammals in the UK. David Whiteley, of the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering is licensed by English Nature to work with bats, and took the opportunity to present his work to the century-old society whilst on holiday.

The talk to the society, one of the most eminent organisations devoted to the study of Indian flora and fauna, took place despite the monsoon weather which halted buses and trains. Whilst in Bombay, the bat enthusiast also visited the Kanheri Caves in the Sanjay Ghandi National Park. These are man-made excavations carved up to 2000 years ago as a place of worship and now providing a home to two colonies of Mr Whiteley’s favourite furry creatures.

A matter of gravity

The US branch of University company GETECH is celebrating a record turnover of more than $1m after only two years of trading. GETECH has developed the world’s most extensive database of global gravity and magnetic data and is renowned in the field of geophysical data processing and management. The company, a division of ULIS, was created in the Earth Sciences department in 1986 and opened its Houston office to offer specialised geophysical services and products to US oil companies.

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