Vets win prizes with ingenuity

December 14, 2001

We visited six departments before today's results were announced to find out how they were preparing for the RAE.

Glasgow University: Veterinary medicine
1996: 4, 2001: 5
Staff: 64 (full-time equivalent)

Glasgow University's faculty of veterinary medicine was disappointed by its 4 rating in the previous research assessment exercise.

In 1996, it submitted 98.5 per cent of staff, but this time only 84 per cent, just over 60 full-time equivalent researchers.

Faculty dean Andrea Nolan said this recognised the unique breadth of work in a veterinary school that makes it unreasonable for all staff to contribute on all fronts. "We have people heavily committed to clinical teaching and providing clinical services 365 days a year in our hospitals. We don't have a National Health Service to underpin that, so rely heavily on our own ingenuity and clinical talent," she said.

The school has appointed about 15 staff since 1996, but most are young researchers replacing senior retirees.

"It is really important to have new people coming in. They weren't stars we went off to poach for the RAE," Professor Nolan said.

"Half the people who were not submitted will be submitted in the future. They're young, they're growing."

The school has been investing in staff to support the research strategy it drew up five years ago, focusing on public health and infectious diseases.

"We considered that research into infectious disease in farm animals had rather declined, and there's always a disease waiting around the corner. Who could have predicted the problems with BSE? There is now a re-emergence of old diseases like TB and foot-and-mouth, and who knows what the next one will be," Professor Nolan said.

"It was considered, very wisely, that public health, bacteriology, farm animal food and production, and learning the disease patterns were really important, and that was where we should invest for the future."

The school has won £5 million from the Wellcome/DTI/Science Research Investment Fund and almost £2 million from the university for a new building, which it is hoped will help boost recruitment. For the first time, it has included patents in its submission and, at seven, it is the largest number from any Glasgow unit.

Since 1996, research income has almost doubled from £20 million to £35 million, and the school has trebled its number of research assistants and fellows. But Professor Nolan admitted that any delay in RAE funding would be "problematic". She said: "It's also about fair play. If your target is to improve the quality of research, and people do, you must reward them accordingly."

RAE 2001 league tables

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