Arbitrary paper count to sack Sydney staff

Posted By TEU on Mar 8, 2012 |


Sydney University’s head of Anthropology Linda Connor says the criteria for selecting hundreds of staff for redundancy – based on the amount of research published in a fixed period – is arbitrary.

Professor Connor, who fears losing three colleagues argues the research test; four refereed research publications or equivalent over 18 months or so, is not an effective indicator, given “there is no calibration for discipline and type of publication”.

“We are not an engineering lab churning out six or seven short papers a year,” she told The Australian.

Professor Connor’s colleague Dr Mimica agrees, arguing humanities scholars publish as individual authors not as teams and pointing to his record of publishing 10,000 word plus research papers as well as monographs. “I want to be read rather than tick the box for the number of papers published and that means writing a monograph, which takes four to six years.”

Dr Mimica is likely to lose his job. He says while he published only three papers in 2009 -2010, all were substantial and appeared in highly ranked journals. He also prepared a new course last year, as well as editing the top-rated journal Oceania and is supervising four PhD students.

The university’s move on Dr Mimica and his colleagues has generated student petitions and excited international outrage with Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence lobbied by the anthropology establishment in Australia and overseas.

According to Cambridge University anthropologist Dame Marilyn Strathern, two of Sydney’s anthropologists are “internationally known anthropologists, who to the abiding credit of the University, have in their different ways made key contributions to the discipline”.

Professor Connor questions why her three colleagues were ever included on the list of under-performing staff that the arts faculty administration prepared for university management.

“The dean does not know the circumstances of every staff member and I was never contacted. There was no chance to put a case.”

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