Leader: Employer openness will stave off unfairness

October 5, 2001

Rahul Jindal's industrial tribunal case against the University of Glasgow raises an issue, referee confidentiality, that is of wider concern than a single individual or institution.

Academic careers are built on colleague opinion. At every stage from the classification of a first degree to the award of a Nobel prize, other's views are the key to success.

In the past, much of this process has been anonymous, including peer reviewing of grant applications and papers for publication. But in recent years, there has been a welcome increase in openness, with many referees agreeing that their names as well as their comments be made available.

The use of anonymous referees for jobs, while it may be common practice, is still more secretive. It may breach the Human Rights Act and is unknown in most areas of employment. In many universities, appointments to important posts are more open than ever, with candidates making public presentations to staff. If candidates with reputations to lose are required to behave openly, employers should too. In these Nolanised days, candidates should know what processes are being used to assess their suitability, and institutions should be scrupulous about avoiding discrimination.

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