Call for contract staff code

February 15, 2002

Funds awarded as a result of the research assessment exercise should be dependent on the recipient institution complying with a standard code of practice for contract researchers, the Academy of Medical Sciences has said, writes Caroline Davis.

Its new report says: "It is regrettable the RAE has given universities no incentive to establish career scientist posts. This recommendation could help to counter the impression that the RAE effectively minimises the contribution made by contract research workers when assessing research groups."

Non-academic staff are given a tenth of the weight of full-time research-active staff in the units of assessment.

The AMS's report, Non-clinical Scientists on Short Term Contracts in Medical Research , is the result of an investigation into how conditions can be improved for the increasing body of contract research scientists.

The authors, Patricia Jacobs, professor of human genetics at Southampton University Medical School, and Jim Smith, chairman of the Wellcome/Cancer Research UK Institute in Cambridge, said that little progress has been made in the six years since a concordat between the government, research councils and charities was signed concerning contractors.

The report highlights the main problems as job insecurity, lack of career structure, poor remuneration with little chance of promotion and lack of recognition.

A spokesperson for the Higher Education Funding Council for England said that it would consider the report's recommendations, but added: "We are generally more in favour of having incentives and good practice for universities and colleges for staff rather than adding additional needs for compliance to our funding."

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