Lecturer apologises to researcher for swapping names in grant application

May 14, 2009

An academic received a written apology from a senior colleague who took her name off a grant application and submitted it under his own.

Sinead Rhodes, a psychology researcher who has won a claim of unfair dismissal against the University of Stirling, received the apology from David Donaldson, a senior lecturer in her department, after threatening to bring a grievance against him.

In the letter, seen by Times Higher Education, he expresses regret for having removed Dr Rhodes' name from the Nuffield Summer Bursary application without her knowledge. "It is important and appropriate that your contribution to research funding applications is clear and properly acknowledged ... I will ensure that nothing like this occurs in the future," he writes. He has since been promoted to a professorship.

Dr Rhodes joined Stirling in 2003 and was employed on two fixed-term contracts until 2008, putting her over the four-year limit after which employers are legally obliged to offer a permanent contract.

An employment tribunal in Glasgow heard that at the time Dr Rhodes' second contract expired, the university was advertising three lectureships in her field of memory research, but she was not offered an interview for any of them.

In her claim, Dr Rhodes argued that her contract was not renewed because of her dispute over the grant application. On leaving Stirling, Dr Rhodes secured a lecturing post at the University of Strathclyde.

She claimed losses for the longer travel time and costs of working there, as well as the higher childcare costs she said she had incurred.

The university conceded that her dismissal was unfair and accepted liability in principle. But it argued against the compensation claim, saying that Dr Rhodes did not need to be based on campus for eight hours a day but could work from home.

The tribunal ruled that it "can hardly be a matter of criticism" that Dr Rhodes chose to work at the office rather than from home. It awarded her £10,878 in compensation.

A Stirling spokesman said Dr Rhodes' complaints had been investigated internally when they were made and had not been upheld.

He said: "A strategic decision was taken not to resist her claim before the tribunal, on the grounds of potential expenditure of public money, and this was justified by the eventual decision of the tribunal."

Professor Donaldson declined to comment.


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