Age-related vision loss

August 4, 2011

For the active researcher, retirement is not really a recognised state. But for research that is heavily reliant on research council funding, then a contracted appointment with a university is essential.

Changes in retirement legislation that recently came into effect will end the lottery of research employment after the age of 65. Indeed, for the past few years, most universities have had in place well-designed and transparent human resource procedures for retaining valued and senior researchers. Unfortunately, this sensible and dignified practice does not seem to be universal.

King's College London is on the point of losing yet another extremely distinguished and highly productive professor. Richard Beacham is currently the director of King's Visualisation Lab (KVL) in the department of digital humanities. Reaching 65 earlier this year, he formally requested not to be obliged to take age-based retirement (under the old discredited procedures, which, subject to final transitional provisions, were repealed with effect from April).

He has been refused, and is now making a final appeal to allow his research and the work he leads with the laboratory to continue and to build upon its existing international success.

KVL is a research team that enjoys an outstanding international reputation and success for its world-leading work on the use of computer modelling and virtual-reality modelling in archaeology, architectural reconstruction, performance analysis and international heritage programmes.

King's College benefited significantly from its performance in the 2008 research assessment exercise, and equally important work is in place for the 2014 research excellence framework.

The economic and cultural impact of Beacham's past and ongoing research is enormous. The work has attracted hugely impressive funding from the UK research councils and from the European Commission. It is the centre for The London Charter, an initiative arising from an Arts and Humanities Research Council project, and now chaired by Beacham, that sets international guidelines for the use of computer visualisation within academic and heritage contexts.

Beacham and his team have indeed located King's at the absolute centre of research and consultancy in important and rapidly developing areas of the digital humanities. It seems a huge mistake to lose an investment that is generating such world-leading research and distinction.

Christopher Baugh, emeritus professor of performance and technology, University of Leeds

Eric Barendt, co-chair, Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards and emeritus professor of media law, University College London

P. G. F. Eversmann, department of theatre studies, University of Amsterdam

Bernard Frischer, director, Virtual World Heritage Laboratory and professor in the departments of art and Classics, University of Virginia

Karl Galinsky, Floyd Callioux centennial professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin

Kozaburo Hachimura, professor and director, Art Research Centre, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan

Kenneth Hamma, consultant for digital technologies at Yale University and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, previously executive director for digital strategy and policy at the Getty Trust

Christopher Innes, Canada research chair and distinguished research professor, York University

Jeffrey Jacobson, director, PublicVR, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Joan R. Mertens, curator, Greek and Roman art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

James Packer, professor emeritus, Northwestern University

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