Add fairness to RAE menu 1

December 18, 2008

Brian Cantor is right - the research assessment exercise should have transparency and integrity ("How can we measure the quality of research without quantity data?", 11 December). It also needs to be more inclusive.

Restaurants do not get a Michelin star for presenting selected items from their menu and hiding the fact that most of what they serve up is overpriced and uninspiring fare.

It should be the same for academic institutions - all academic staff (and surely agreeing on a definition of this cannot be so difficult) should be included. The current exercise is creating a system of academic apartheid in some universities where there are a chosen few who lead a "prima donna" lifestyle at work while others are left out in the intellectual cold with their nominal research hours cut and loaded up with teaching and administrative duties.

There is little incentive for universities to develop and encourage permanent staff who have been employed for a few years but may have sunk rather than swum in the dog-eat-dog world of university-based research.

By forcing universities to include all staff on academic contracts, institutions would be encouraged to nurture and encourage staff who, although they may never reach the dizzy heights of a chair, still have something to contribute towards the advancement of human knowledge.

Magnus Johnson, University of Hull.

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