Memorandum submitted by Dr Myer R Salaman,
Department of Immunology, Imperial College School of Medicine
I have two major criticisms of the RAE. Firstly,
it is damaging to the overall research activity in the country.
While it promotes a high standard of research, the downside is
the potentially even better research that is squeezed from the
system. The great strength of our university research in the past
was its diversity, allowing less obviously productive work to
proceed as well as that which would score highly in the RAE, and
that is the only way to ensure that new ideas for future progress
are developed. It is much more difficult now for young people
to follow up their own ideas.
The second criticism is the disastrous effect
that the RAE can have on teaching. In the years leading up to
the last RAE Imperial College School of Medicine, for reasons
both of prestige and money, became obsessed with the desire to
obtain the highest possible score. Using the threat of compulsion
they made redundant 59 comparatively low-scoring academic staff.
This included many dedicated teachers willing to give their time
to helping students. The element of personal contact between teacher
and student in non-clinical teaching is now greatly reduced.
A way must be found for distributing this money
such that creative work is not crushed and teaching is not harmed.
A major, if not the sole criterion, should be the number of research-active staff. Redundancies in the academic sector have been made possible by the abolition of tenured contracts in 1987. Abolition has damaged academic freedom, essential for a healthy research environment,
and while restoration of absolute tenure is not desirable there
must be safeguards built in to prevent the type of events seen
30 January 2002