Years of not being dead

October 10, 1997

CAN anyone tell me why the United Kingdom pay scales for research assistants are determined by age? Salary levels could be more fairly determined by length of relevant experience. Beyond the age of majority, one's number of years of not being dead is an arbitrary and unfair measure of competence. Consider this (hypothetical?) case: two identical research positions are filled, but the younger of the two successful applicants has years more relevant experience. Why is the younger candidate nonetheless seen as worth less?

I understand that there is a clause that allows pay for an individual to be increased on the basis of an extraordinary application with respect to the individual's unusual experience. This provision recognises, but only partially ameliorates fundamental iniquity. The system is demeaning and a good way to encourage young researchers with any sense of self-worth to leave academia.

Mark Staples

Gonville and Caius College Cambridge

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