Examination of Witnesses (Questions 67-79)|
WEDNESDAY 3 JULY 2002
67. We are moving on to the next stage of contract
researchers, you have started off and then moved on. You have
all left academic research or plan to do so. Can you tell me why
you did it or is that too obvious after the first two sets of
(Dr Bradburne) I have only been on a
short-term contract for two years and I did it because now I can.
I am young enough that I can move when I want to and get out of
the trap rather than hit 32/33 and be told "There is no place
for you" or even worse go on for longer than that.
(Dr Link) I actually did not move on. Although officially
I am unemployed I do work full-time at UCL unpaid. I do still
fight my corner because I was brought to this country to do research
into particular cancer, which is currently untreatable. Melanoma,
as you know, is one of the most malignant and, at the moment,
one of the most deadly cancers. Now I have in my hands a potentially
successful treatment which is awaiting clinical trial. Everything
is ready to start this trial. We have all licences, we have all
permissions, there is a team waiting to start the trial. We hear
about the priorities and that there is alarm in this country about
cancer treatment. But I cannot start this trial because I have
no post. I am still trying to resolve the situation at UCL, and
asking why and what is the reason for not allowing me to continue
my research after 20 years in the institution to which I was brought
specially from abroad to do this particular research. Why, when
my research was approved for the clinical trial, I could not continue
it and try to help people who are terminally ill and, at the moment,
without hope of having an alternative treatment.
69. Is there funding available for you to do
(Dr Link) I am trapped in a vicious circle because
without a post I cannot apply for funding. At a certain point
UCL gave me a condition that if I had funding for the trial I
would get a post. Somehow I did manage to obtain funding for the
trial but the post did not follow. So the funds have been withdrawn
because I could not carry on the research as I was officially
unemployed. Actually when I obtained the funding my contract was
terminated by UCL so it was the opposite to what I was promised.
70. You have a serious dispute.
(Dr Hill) At the University of Bradford I had 13 contracts
over nine years, the longest was two years, the shortest were
one month each. I had no input to the management of the department,
as a contract research staffer and I could not apply for research
funding under my own name. Now I have left and work in the private
sector I have a permanent contract. I have direct input to the
management of the company and I can apply for research funding
in my own name under the Department of Trade and Industry's Small
Business Research Initiative, those are the reasons.
71. Right. Well what would it take to change
the system to give you, let us say, at least happier experiences
in university research?
(Dr Bradburne) I would say I have become increasingly
fed up with being told by everyone around me in the lab, my line
managers, etc, that they can see a glittering research career
for me, that I am an asset to the place that I work in, that I
am too good to leave bench science, and I turn around to them
and say "Fine, give me a job then" and they cannot.
They can say "Well I am sure we can find you some funding
for the next three years". Fine. Then what do I have at the
end of it, no guarantee at all, even though I might be the best
scientist in the world if there is no position for me, that is
it, sorry, goodbye.
72. Eva, your case sounds absolutely horrendous.
It bedevils understanding. Can you see any way in which it should
(Dr Link) I think that although it is quite a popular
point of view this lack of funding, from my experience it is not
simply a lack of funding. A number of permanent contracts for
university posts were available but they were never offered to
me. I think that there is a parallel mechanism which is used to
select those who will be allowed to be successful and those who
will not. What I am trying to say is that there are two points.
It is sufficiently difficult to be successful in scientific research
and carry out successful research but, on top of that, there is
an additional factor that regulates who will be permitted to be
successful and who will not. I am bumping my head against the
so-called glass ceiling. It seems I am not allowed to be successful
but because I have become one and I have got something in my hands
that might help people who are terminally ill, suddenly I have
become not welcome. Why is that? Is it because I am a woman? Because
I am a foreigner? Because I am a foreign woman? I do not know
what the reason is. But it is obviously this factor which prevents
my employment and prevents me from continuing my research. I think
that this factor should be identified and dealt with because this
is an artificial way of stopping the progress of research which,
in this case, can immediately lead to a practical outcome.
(Mr Hill) Really just the things that I have described
that I have now working in the private sector a permanent contract
or at least an indefinite contract to remove the stress of facing,
in some cases monthly, a date at which I may be on the dole, some
sort of input to my own destination in terms of applying for funding.
In order to get these from the private sector I did not actually
get a big pay rise either I just wanted to make the point that
I took about a 22 per cent pay cut in order to leave this dreadful
situation I was working under in the university. For a 34 year
old parent with a mortgage it is a big decision but due to the
career advantage and the lack of stress relatively in the new
position, it is one I have had to make in favour of leaving higher
74. Would it be fair to say you value security
more than money?
(Dr Bradburne) Definitely.
(Dr Hill) Yes.
75. From your experience as short-term contract
workers and your perspective now being outside that, can you give
us some feeling of what you fear could be the effect in the long
term on the British science base? That is a big question. Do you
have any view about how detrimentally damaging this kind of practice
is going to be on science, your morale, the structure or whatever?
(Dr Bradburne) Short-term researchers are the ones
who do the work. The group leaders are usually so tied up fighting
for money that they do not do much science any more, or a lot
of them do not because they cannot. People like us are the ones
who end up doing the science. If you scare those people away,
and unfortunately people are becoming more selfish in their career
aspirations and so are not going to put up with constant beating
downs, then simply you are not going to get the high quality science
done and the best people will get up and walk away.
76. Did the stresses that you have all clearly
suffered have an effect on the quality of the work you are doing
(Dr Hill) I was continually applying for jobs. It
is not something that is particularly pleasant to get knocked
back a lot of times. Finally I was successful. I was in negotiations
with my current employer for months before I actually received
a job offer. That distracts one from doing the research and putting
everything into the research you are doing. My bosses at the university
said that I did a good job but I feel I could have done a better
job if I had felt there was more in it for me in terms of self-determination
in terms of my career.
77. Do you think Gareth Roberts' Report is offering
(Dr Hill) No.
(Dr Bradburne) I have looked at the three career trajectories
and they all suffer from holes in them. The academic one, as we
have heard, is really just the status quo and relies on
this publication lottery and this permission for you to become
permanent so you have to be lucky. The associate requires a major
change in funding. I think it is a good idea but it will require
a big, big change in science funding.
78. You have suffered from a clearly unstructured
random kind of career path. Was there anything structured in that
at all? Was there any training structure involved in your careers?
(Dr Hill) Half way through my first year I enrolled
as a part-time PhD student, that was my decision, it was not something
which was suggested to me. The university helped me by waiving
the fees as I was a full-time member of staff at the University
of Bradford. They do this for any full-time member of staff who
goes for part-time education. I held together that part-time PhD
over six years, successfully winning new contracts for myself
by doing whatever I could to stay in the department. The career
structure which has emerged is one that I have completely designed
myself. I have gritted my teeth and got on with it.
79. Did you ever have the chance to apply for
a permanent job within the university at all?
(Dr Hill) There are always, every now and again, permanent
jobs being advertised but none in my particular research area.
I worked on contaminated land, air pollution and water pollution.
Perhaps because I was not able to become specialised through searching
around for the next contract that was detrimental to my successfully
winning a permanent contract.