Project defended

October 30, 1998

We were extremely concerned to read Phil Baty's article ("Policy project flawed", THES October 16), much of which we consider to be inaccurate and misleading. Together with the signatories of this letter, Tony Agathangelou carried corporate responsibility for the quality and integrity of the research programme that he now claims is "low-level, flawed and of little or no validity". If this were the case, none of us would be wasting our time or risking our reputation by being involved in it.

We do not propose to embark on a detailed rebuttal here, but we do wish to make three points very strongly for the public record. First, the university did not take disciplinary action against Dr Agathangelou because he criticised the research on which he had been employed. He was suspended and subsequently dismissed because he misrepresented the circumstances in which he left his previous post. Criticising research has nothing to do with it.

Second, we totally reject Dr Agathangelou's assertion that the project is "little more than a naive justification for the whims of the department's civil servants". The charge that the relationship between the Lord Chancellor's Department and the research team is "dangerously collusive" represents a crude caricature of complex research that is designed to evaluate and inform policy.

Finally, the extensive criticisms of the research made by Dr Agathangelou since his suspension have been examined carefully. The university established an inquiry that included consulting senior academics nominated by Dr Agathangelou. The Lord Chancellor's Department laid the charges before the independent Research Advisory Group, which oversees and advises on our research programme, and which consists of leading scholars from this country and overseas. Not only have Dr Agathangelou's allegations been found to be completely groundless and totally unjustified, but the research has been commended for its high quality.

Members of the Research Programme Team

Caroline Bridge, Manchester University; Richard Collier, Mike Coombes, Peter Dolton, Newcastle University; Douglas Hooper (Hull University); Peter McCarthy, Simon Raybould, Newcastle University; Martin Richards, Cambridge University; Cathy Stark, Newcastle University; Noel Timms (Leicester University); Janet Walker, Newcastle University

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