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Weekly Intel: Fight over Egtved Girl / Norway joins Sweden in shunning Elsevier

The latest weekly university news from Copenhagen and abroad

Danes said they were happy again

Danes are second in the world in terms of happiness.

Or let’s be honest: Second in the world in bragging about their well-being to pollsters.

Finland is happiest country in the world, according to the 2019 World Happiness Report which was released Wednesday. Least happy was South Sudan,

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute, said the five Nordic countries that reliably rank high in the index »are doing something right in terms of creating good conditions for good lives«.

To see how other countries rank click here.

Cheated to get into elite US universities

Two students have filed a class-action lawsuit in the largest ever college admissions cheating scam ever to be prosecuted in the US. This is after dozens of individuals, who allegedly conspired to cheat on US exams to elite universities, were arrested by federal agents in multiple US states last week.

Elite schools Yale, Stanford and Georgetown were among the destination universities, but there is no suggestion that the schools were involved in wrongdoing.

The defendants, who are largely wealthy and include CEOs of major companies, allegedly bribed exam administrators to allow others to secretly take college entrance exams in place of students. Or even to correct the students’ answers after they had taken the exam.

Norway now also cancelling Elsevier contracts

University of Oslo

University of Oslo

Norway has become the latest country to cancel its contracts with scientific publishing giant Elsevier following a dispute over access to research papers, writes The Scientist.

The Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT), which represents research institutions in the country, rejected Elsevier’s offer to lower some of its costs for Norwegian institutions because it didn’t go far enough to promote free access to published research.

Norway isn’t the first Scandinavian country to make the move. Last summer, a consortium of institutions in Sweden dropped Elsevier after a similar dispute. »The current system for scholarly communication must change, and our only option is to cancel deals when they don’t meet our demands for a sustainable transition to open access,« Astrid Söderbergh Widding, president of Stockholm University and chair of the consortium, told, a blog published by the National Library of Sweden, at the time.

Similar disputes have also caused loss of access for multiple institutions in Germany, including the massive research organization the Max Planck Society. Danish universities have yet to follow suit, but interest group Universities Denmark has been active in getting European universities to fight the publisher through the EU Commission.

Evolutionary limbo for diving beetles

Diving beetle

Diving beetle © Niels Sloth/Biopix

Sexual conflict is normally seen as driving populations towards evolving into distinct species.

But a group of scientists, including some from the University of Copenhagen, have looked at the diving beetle and found the opposite. Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

»Our study challenges previous ideas of sexual conflict as an engine of speciation« says Lars L. Iversen, a researcher at Arizona State University and a Carlsberg Foundation research fellow.

»Usually females evolve ways to escape the mating harassment from males and this could initiate the evolution of new species. Here, we document an alternative outcome, that sexual conflict instead prevents populations from diverging from each other and becoming new species.«

It all has to do with male suction cups and the smooth or granulated structure of female backs, and is explained better here.

But the upshot is that diving beetles are kept in an evolutionary limbo, and that two type of females are maintained by ongoing and intense mating harassment from the males.

Egtved girl not, actually, from southern Germany after all

So we all believed the University of Copenhagen study proving that the Bronze Age priestess, the Egtved Girl, was in fact a ‘Schwarzwald girl’ who originally came from this the region in the south of present-day Germany.

Not so fast, according to new research from the other large Danish university, Aarhus. She was actually more likely a local, and Denmark can indeed lay full claim to the iconic, well-preserved remains that were found in Jutland and can be seen in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

Two Bronze Age women — the Egtved Girl and the Skrydstrup woman— were most likely homebodies who never left what is now modern-day Denmark, the study finds.

In two previous studies, researchers analyzed isotopes in the women’s remains, so they could piece together where the women had lived. But now, new research finds that these analyses were likely contaminated by modern agricultural lime.

»Using strontium [isotopes] to trace prehistoric people should therefore be done with great care and a good understanding of the land use,« said study co-researcher Rasmus Andreasen, an isotope geochemist at the Department of Geoscience at Aarhus University in Denmark. »Otherwise, you can end up with wrong conclusions.«

Copenhagen researchers are having none of it.

Karin Frei at the time of the original study, with the Egtved girl's tooth

Karin Frei at the time of the original study, with the Egtved girl’s tooth

»Overall, there is nothing in the study from Aarhus which changes our interpretation: That the two women from the Bronze Age came from afar,« says Karin Frei, a professor at the National Museum of Denmark, and Robert Frei, a professor of geology and geochemistry at the University of Copenhagen in a response to Live Science.

Karin Frei says their interpretation is »over-simplistic«.

The remains of the Egtved Girl, who some surmise was a priestess, and the Skrydstrup Woman, were found in Denmark in 1921 and 1935 respectively.

10 million Norwegian kroner to UCPH research

Two researchers from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine have received DKK 7.7 million from the Olav Thon Foundation for a joint Nordic research project in skeletal stem cells.

The wealthy 95 year-old Norwegian Olav Thon presented the winners of the Olav Thon Foundation Research Awards 2019 in a Norwegian folk costume with red knitted hat.

Olaw Thon Awards 2019

Olaw Thon Awards 2019

The lucky recipients are professor Moustapha Kassem and assistant professor Abbas Jafari Kermani from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and The Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Copenhagen, and a research colleague at the University of Oslo.

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