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Dutch evolutionary biologists fired

Evolutionary biologists are the latest victims of the global economic downturn. In a move that has generated a worldwide outcry, Leiden University in the Netherlands is firing nine evolutionary biologists, half of its total evolution-related staff. Leiden officials say the layoffs are in response to a smaller annual science budget, following the Dutch government's reallocation of €100 million ($133 million) last year to fund the linkurl:Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.;ht

By | January 28, 2009

Evolutionary biologists are the latest victims of the global economic downturn. In a move that has generated a worldwide outcry, Leiden University in the Netherlands is firing nine evolutionary biologists, half of its total evolution-related staff. Leiden officials say the layoffs are in response to a smaller annual science budget, following the Dutch government's reallocation of €100 million ($133 million) last year to fund the linkurl:Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.;http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/index
But an linkurl:online petition;http://evodevo.eu/petition/ -- which has already been signed by more than 2,700 people in the past three days -- questions why only evolutionary biologists were laid off while molecular biologists were spared the axe. "We are under pressure," linkurl:Frietson Galis,;http://wwwbio.leidenuniv.nl/ibl/organisation/OrganisationPeopleInfo.php?PeopleID=175 the president of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology and one of the Leiden staff given the pink slip, told __The Scientist__. The dismissals will eliminate Leiden's research in population biology and theoretical modeling because there will no longer be any researchers working in these fields, she added. "It's not possible anymore to have masters and PhD students who work at the population level, but that's necessary to study natural selection." "We're losing knowledge," linkurl:Bastian Reijnen,;http://science.naturalis.nl/research/people/cv/reijnen an associate researcher at the Naturalis National Museum of Natural History in Leiden and a former Leiden University student, told __The Scientist__. "That's what you have to give to the new students, and when [the staff] are gone, they'll probably retire or go to foreign countries." Galis said she expects to be paid through until February 2010 but she's been told that her lab and her office will be shuttered by March 1st. She and her colleagues, however, have hired a lawyer to protest the move. "We hope it will be stopped," she said. Targeting only evolutionary biologists "is sad for the people affected," but it's better to cut deep in one field than to spread the financial woes around, linkurl:Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel,;http://www.math.leidenuniv.nl/~verduyn/ dean of Leiden's Faculty of Sciences, told__ linkurl:ScienceInsider.;http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2009/01/dutch-universit.html
**Related stories:__***linkurl:Fired faculty speak out;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55258/
[4th December 2008]*linkurl:ASU cancer researchers fired;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/blog/23201/
[6th March 2006]
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Comments

Avatar of: Bradley Andresen

Bradley Andresen

Posts: 34

January 28, 2009

Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel, dean of Leiden's Faculty of Sciences, said ??it's better to cut deep in one field than to spread the financial woes around?. That is the worst management philosophy I have ever heard of! First, the best thing to do is see if you can get an early retirement. Now this may be tricky in Europe where the retirement system and mandatory retirement are very different than the USA, where I am writing from. However, the second way to cut staff is to look at those that are the least productive, which should include teaching and mentoring (that is after all a core mission of a University). Additionally, one must determine a cost benefit ratio for the faculty. What is the draw of the evolutionary biologists on the university budget outside of salaries?
Avatar of: Mike Noren

Mike Noren

Posts: 10

January 28, 2009

It's the same everywhere - basic science is reduced or eliminated, applied science is untouched. Evolutionary research doesn't pay (in grants and industry cooperation), molecular biology does.
Avatar of: JON DE RIEL

JON DE RIEL

Posts: 107

January 29, 2009

The environment changes, new selective pressures arise, populations crash, only the fittest survive. Omigosh, universities evolve too!
Avatar of: Ruth Rosin

Ruth Rosin

Posts: 117

January 31, 2009

I believe I am a biologist, though I'm not quite sure what Evolutionary Biology means, unless it is biology that takes the Theory of Evolution for granted. And I do not recognize any other kind of Biology.\n\nHowever, if the Dutch Evolutionary Biologists that were fired are "Evolutionary Psychologists", that practice their psedoscientific "trade" based on Wilson's "Sociobiology", which is, in turn, based on the general approach to Behavior co-founded in 1935 by Lorenz & Tinbergen, (with its belief in the existence of genetically predetermined traits, known as "instincts" in Behavior), I fully applaude the firing!
Avatar of: Ivan Kelly

Ivan Kelly

Posts: 2

February 2, 2009

It just shows Evolution's true place in the sciences. When financial pressures arise, evolution is the first to go!\n\nWell done Holland!

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