Memorandum submitted by Dr Clare Goodess,
Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, following the
Evidence Session of 3 July 2002
I would like to take this opportunity to make
a few further points relating to some of the evidence we heard
On the question of who is to blame, I think
that a large part must rest with the poor management abilities
of universities. The Climatic Research Unit has been winning money
for contract research since its foundation in 1972. I have worked
there continuously since 1982 (as a temporary employee for over
19 of these years) so clearly there is continuity of research
income. The Unit currently brings in an average of £750,000
contract research money a year, the School of Environmental Sciences
about £5 million. Pooling this money should allow greater
security to be offered than at present. Currently four members
of CRU staff have permanent contracts, three (including myself),
indefinite contracts, with another nine on fixed-term contracts.
I don't see why we shouldn't be able to offer all staff indefinite
or permanent contracts.
Some of the poor management is because universities
seem adverse to taking any kind of risk. UEA, for example, seems
to overestimate the risks of research staff failing to bring in
money to cover their salary and certainly in the past has expected
unrealistically large sums of money to be set aside to underwrite
permanent/indefinite contracts (to cover redundancy payments).
Universities are also very poor at providing their staff with
management training (or indeed any kind of training). In a few
cases, I think that academic staff do deliberately use fixed-term
contracts in order to exert control over contract research staff.
For example, somebody came up and spoke to me on the bus to UEA
on Wednesday morning, knowing that I was giving evidence later
that day. Their employment contract has just been renewed for
a year. However, the research grant from which they are being
paid has been renewed for five years! I do not think there is
any excuse for this kind of treatment.
The Climatic Research Unit is facing increasing
recruitment problems. For example, we advertised two positions
earlier this year to work on European Union projects. The contracts
were for 18 months and two years, and we were offering a salary
up to £27,000. The majority of the approximately 50 applicants
were from overseas (principally India and China), with very few
UK applicants. None of the UK applicants were good enough to get
on to the shortlist. In the end, we appointed people from Australia
I think some people at UEA have recognised the
problems and realise that something needs to be done. For example,
Jennifer Kahiel from Human Resources is supportive to individual
researchers and to the ResNet network of women researchers. However,
UEA appears much better on paper than in reality. It does have
a code of practice based on the Concordat (I was the only contract
researcher on the working party that produced it), but it is very
weak and has not been implemented at the vital School level. Jan
Anderson conducted a survey of research staff in 2000 (funded
by Athena via ResNet) and found that 42 per cent of respondents
had not heard of the code of practice, 62 per cent had not heard
of the Concordat and 67 per cent had not heard of the RCI.
I would like to finish with some comments about
the Roberts Report recommendations. I have to say that I consider
the three proposed trajectories to be inequitable and unworkable.
I see myself very much as part of a research team, and cannot
imagine how such a team would work with people doing the same
work employed on these three different tiers, let alone how you
would allocate people to each trajectory (particularly given our
current recruitment problems). However, I do agree with the need
for ongoing training and staff development.
The Research Associate trajectory has the advantage
of a permanent position, but Sir Gareth Roberts description does
not match with the reality of what senior contract researchers
do. In addition to carrying out the scientific work on projects,
together with project co-ordination and management, I spend time
developing and writing research proposals (which is increasingly
time consuming), supervise PhD and MSc students, do some MSc teaching,
am editor of a scientific journal, review manuscripts and research
proposals for other groups, promote the Unit by preparing material
for the web site, give general talks on climate change/the work
of the Unit, etc, etc. Thus I do very many of the things that
an "academic" does, although spending considerably less
time on teaching. I certainly do not see myself as a failed academic
("someone who is not really up to it" in Sir Gareth's
words) and consider that I have far more to offer than the support
role described in the Roberts Report.
If you would like to talk about any of these
issues further, you are always very welcome to visit the Climatic
Research Unit. Perhaps you might also be interested in talking
to a ResNet lunchtime session (ResNet is the highly successful
network for women contract research in the UEA science schools
and Norwich Research Park.
Finally, I am looking forward to seeing the
report of the committee and hope that it will be taken as seriously
as it deserves by Diana Warwick and the rest of Universities UK.
6 October 2002