An eco battle against the clock

June 4, 1999

Now in the third year of an ecology PhD at London's Imperial College, Stuart Otway thinks that a fourth year is inevitable.

"There is no chance that I am going to finish before my funding runs out," he said. "As my research in-

volves big, outdoor experiments, I need three whole sum-

mers, which leaves me with about a month to write it up."

Mr Otway, 26, received Pounds 6,500 a year from the Natural Environ-

ment Research Council for the first three years of his research. A final year will be funded by a short-term post-doctoral placement, or by part-time work.

Teaching is not compulsory but he enjoys contact with the undergraduates. "It helps me keep up with today's environmental issues, as well as reminding me of what I learnt in my first degree."

He is paid Pounds 9 per hour for demons-

trations and brings in extra money from occasional A-level field trips, where he can earn up to Pounds 500 per week.

"The extra work can be a bit of a burden, but there is no way that anyone can live on the research grant." Some fourth-year PhD students hold down telesales jobs five days a week and fit research into evenings and weekends, he says.

Things have changed since Stuart started. Imperial students now do graduate training. "Formal training would have been quite helpful," he said.

Though keen to pursue his research career, Stuart feels funding strategies need reviewing. "Intellectually, a PhD is pretty spect-

acular, but the gov-

er-nment is shoot-

ing itself in the foot by not coming up with enough money.

"It's harsh that those who are forced to make a decision between a level of income and what they actually want to do with their lives."

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