An academic branded "research inactive" because his work will not be submitted for next year's research assessment exercise is forming a support group for other academics left out in the cold.
Launching an appeal in the letters page of today's Times Higher , Vic Truesdale, a professor of biogeochemistry at Oxford Brookes University, has invited academics "unexpectedly excluded from the RAE" to contact him by e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
"There could be many of us who could do with some mutual support, and in any case somebody should be counting us and logging the insult," he writes.
Next year's RAE is expected to be the most selective ever, with some universities attempting to improve their research ratings by submitting only a small core of researchers, instead of including all their active researchers. There are reports that some universities are excluding even high-quality researchers as they attempt to second-guess the type of research the RAE judging panels will favour.
In the last RAE, in 2001, the work of about 50,000 researchers, out of 116,000 full-time academic staff, had their work submitted. Many claim that exclusion stigmatises academics and damages their careers.
Professor Truesdale said that the RAE "reduces the diversity of intellectual pursuit" and "moulds scientists into automatons".
"I suppose that in the big planning games, as in battle-planning, generals cannot be concerned with the plight of individual soldiers; they are merely cannon fodder," he said. "I want to register the plight of the individual, and to ask the question as to whether you think the cannon-fodder model is appropriate in a 21st-century democracy."