Just the job

August 9, 2012

The provision now being made for career breaks in the research excellence framework to which Daniel Hill refers ("Double standards", Letters, 26 July) is essential and long overdue.

Some years ago, I delivered refereed conference papers, at considerable family expense, during a career break. I gave up on turning this research into journal articles despite being encouraged to do so. It became clear that research assessment requirements meant I was unlikely to be able to re-enter academia.

Changes to research assessment criteria were also desperately needed to encourage movement between academic positions and related employment. In occupational psychology, for instance, there is frequently little difference between university research and consultancy work, except that the latter is often unpublishable for reasons of client confidentiality.

Pressures to appoint lecturers with a record of research publications have seriously impaired the quality of university teaching in applied subjects. Students are educated by too many academics who have pursued research to the exclusion of immersion in the professional world.

Hill refers to assessment in the REF of university managers, administrators and teaching-only staff who wish to return to research. However, fair assessment of career returners, and of people moving between higher education and industry, is more important, both in relation to equality and also because of the practical consequences.

Frederic Stansfield, Canterbury, Kent

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