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Academics are balloted on industrial action over Liverpool University’s “unethical” plans to cut jobs

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n825 (Published 25 March 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n825
  1. Matthew Limb
  1. London

International concern is growing over a UK university’s “callous” and “unethical” plans to cut jobs among clinician scientists and researchers, including those doing key covid related work.

More than 2000 external academics have signed an open letter saying that restructuring plans by the University of Liverpool, which could see 47 jobs lost in its Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, “can only have a chilling effect on UK research.”1

They said that faculty staff were identified and targeted for possible redundancy by “grant income and citation metrics” without being able to review the criteria or the information held about them. They argue that the “irresponsible” use of quantitative metrics violates the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment,2 which the university is signed up to, and other internationally agreed principles. The university has denied this accusation.

The metrics have been deployed against staff who have received consistently positive annual appraisals and have been “working harder than ever during a global pandemic,” they wrote.

“Wholly avoidable”

“Everyone is shocked this is happening—it’s a very unacceptable way of handling staff,” said Jeremy Turnbull, who is Johnston professor of biochemistry at the university and faces losing his job as “one of the 47” under the proposals (see case study below). Also under threat are staff producing research that is considered …

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