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Solidarity with our colleagues at Univ. Leiden

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  • Carla Essenberg
    Dear all, Apologies if you have already received an email about this issue. As you may have heard, a decision has been made to dismantle the prestigious
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 18, 2009
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      Dear all,

      Apologies if you have already received an email about this issue. As
      you may have heard, a decision has been made to dismantle the
      prestigious Department of Evolutionary Biology at Leiden in response
      to budget problems. The cuts being made to the evolution program,
      which include the firing of half a dozen tenured professors, are far
      more drastic than cuts being made to other biology programs, and
      appear to be the outcome of a philosophy towards universities that
      downgrades the importance of disciplines that are not considered
      marketable, including basic sciences.

      The European Society for Evolutionary Biology is encouraging
      scientists to sign an online petition to be delivered to members of
      the government of the Netherlands, in an effort to reverse this
      decision. If you are interest in signing it, you can find it at:

      http://evodevo.eu/petition/

      For more information, see the recent news report in Nature:
      http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090210/full/457772b.html?s=news_rss

      Carla Essenberg
      PhD Candidate
      Department of Biology
      University of California, Riverside


      Following is a summary of the situation, sent to me by a European colleague:

      In essence, what this "re-structuring" entails is:

      1- The disappearance of the evolutionary biology teaching program in
      Leiden (and in the whole of the Netherlands, other than the
      behavioural ecology program at Univ. Gröningen)

      2. Firing of more than half of the department, including well renowned
      researchers like Jacques van Alphen (Marie Curie Professor of
      Excellence), Tom Van Dooren, Frietson Galis (president of the European
      Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology), Sacha Gultyaev, Patsy
      Haccou (executive vice-president of the European Society of
      Evolutionary Biology), Ken Kraaijeveld, Femmie Kraaijeveld, Hans Metz
      and Rino Zandee ... and of course, all their post-docs, technicians
      and graduate students.

      3. The relocation of the rest of the department into other scattered
      departments (like molecular biology, mathematics, etc) with no
      evolution programs.

      The decision was made to cut entire disciplines (rather than spread
      the costs over different departments) based on their "productivity"
      and "competitiveness" ... as measured in economic terms (otherwise,
      in terms of scientific output, Evolutionary Biology in Leiden was one
      of the most productive and competitive departments). This is a new
      symptom of the European Union's tendency to transform Universities
      into production factories that cater "the market" and the consequent
      demeaning of "non-marketable" disciplines like humanities, philosophy,
      ecology or other basic sciences.

      You can find more information in the latest issue of Nature (painfully
      enough, the one celebrating our discipline).

      If you allow me a bit of demagogy, and to put things in context,
      politicians have decided to celebrate our Darwin day by wiping out one
      of Europe's most successful and symbolically significant departments
      in our field: that which gave us the only evolutionary biologist (Niko
      Tinbergen) to ever get a Nobel Prize.

      Please spread the word.

      Thanks for your solidarity,
      Andres Lopez-Sepulcre
      Department of Biology
      University of California, Riverside
      tel. +1 951 403 3199
      andresls@...

      --
      Carla Essenberg
      PhD Candidate
      Department of Biology
      University of California, Riverside
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