Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 at Imperial.

30 January 2002

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