Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 32-39)




  32. Thank you very much indeed. You have seen how the questioning goes. It is very nice to see you here. Welcome, Clare, we have known each other for a long time. I see you have had 54 contracts in 20 years, is that right?

  (Dr Goodess) Yes, although I do now have an indefinite contract.

  33. Is that a British record, do you know?
  (Dr Goodess) No, unfortunately not. I think the AUT certainly knows of worse.

  Chairman: Let us start off with Des.

Dr Turner

  34. Did you all expect the kind of life as a research gypsy on short term contracts when you embarked on your scientific career?
  (Dr Rugg) I think when I first started I was interested in doing research, just being a research scientist. At that time I thought that I would continue to be funded on short term contracts. As I realised that I was becoming more successful at doing research my ambitions grew and I decided that I really wanted to pursue a career in academic research. I did a PhD at that time and since then it has become more difficult to maintain my research funding, although I think I have been reasonably successful in terms of 22 years on short-term funding. To answer the question, I was aware at the beginning, I thought that if I worked hard and I produced the goods then I would be successful and I feel that has not happened.

  35. You are a senior lecturer now, is that a tenured position?
  (Dr Rugg) No. I have got about 14 months left. I have people working on short-term contracts on grants that I have attracted. I am no longer in a position to actually apply for funding to continue their positions so not only will I be out of a job in 14 months' time but so will they.

  36. It would seem superfluous to ask whether you have been happy with that aspect of your career. I know from personal experience it is extremely stressful. I take it you have a family, do you?
  (Dr Rugg) I do, yes.

  37. Do all of you have family responsibilities?
  (Dr Goodess) No, I do not.

  38. Clearly it must make life very difficult arranging your family life, mortgages, whatever, if not impossible?
  (Mr Patton) It is not impossible. Ten years ago it was extremely difficult. I have applied recently for a new mortgage this year and I have found it much easier to obtain. However the feelings of security and the confidence I have about maintaining the ability to repay it have not changed over the last ten years.

  39. What do you blame for the mill you have been put through?
  (Dr Goodess) The universities being poor managers both of money and of people. The research money which comes into universities is actually a large pool. My small unit is bringing in three quarters of a million pounds a year, the school is bringing in five million a year. If that money is pooled it could support a good team of researchers rather than having individuals tied to individual contracts. I think there is a poor management issue at that level within the universities.

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