Friday 9 March 2018

Deadline Extension Request: Open Letter to Chief Executive of EPSRC.

Dear Professor Nelson

I write to you as Chief Executive of EPSRC, and ask you to immediately make sensible deadline extensions to EPSRC closing dates. This is of course because of the disruption across the University sector.  For example, given the strikes to date, a blanket extension of two weeks to all deadlines within the next month might be appropriate, but I naturally leave the details to you.

For example, I am currently working on a proposal for the UKRI CDT call on the new theme of "Applications and Implications of AI". This was announced only on February 5, with a deadline of March 28.  In the worst case, almost half the duration of the call will be taken up by strike action. I have written about the dilemma this places me under at this address:

Many other staff will be working on this and other calls with looming deadlines. The interaction of the deadlines with the strike could have any and all of the following negative effects:

  • Fewer and lower quality submissions to EPSRC calls than you have a right to expect.
  • Stress on staff at affected institutions under pressure (both from others and themselves) to do the right thing in their view by striking but also to obtain funding for the benefit both of their employer and their career.
  • Overwork at danger to their health by staff who are committed to both strikes and submitting amazing proposals to EPSRC.
  • Potential conflict between staff at a striking university between collaborators on a grant taking different stances.
  • Potential conflict between staff at different universities collaborating on proposals, where one is striking and the other is unaffected (e.g. a post-92 university). 
By making an appropriate extension urgently, EPSRC would not be taking any position on the strikes except that they are happening and are having a massive impact on the work of many thousands of staff. I believe that such a blanket deadline extension would massively foster goodwill across the sector. 

While I deeply disagree with the management at my university about the strike, I do want to emphasise that I have come under no pressure at all from anyone at the University of St Andrews to change my stance because it might help the university obtain such a large grant, and I thank everyone involved for that.

With very best wishes

Ian Gent
Professor of Computer Science
University of St Andrews

Note to anyone reading this.  Please feel free to cut and paste any and all parts of this letter if you wish to recycle for other people who might help.  Also note the petition on this issue here:

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