Wednesday, May 9, 2012


date: Thu Apr 26 14:42:31 2001
from: Keith Briffa <>
subject: Re: Soft money jobs
to: Keith Alverson <>

Hi Keith
was in the U.S. last week so I have only starting ploughing through my mail. I know it
sounds crass when someone says this (as many have to me) but I can not envisage a situation
when you would find yourself unsupported. It would be one on life's true ironies if having
got the appointment as Exec. Dir. ( a rare case of the right man for the job for a change)
you then found the PAGES money stopping. This simply can not happen as the whole momentum
is now established , and the scientific and logistical value of the programme is proven
(even in the eyes of those admitted early sceptics such as myself ). If you ask me for an
honest opinion of whether you should apply for other jobs though, my unequivocal answer is
yes. You can now use you position of strength as a platform to go in search of a tenured
position. The subsequent security is worth the waves that would be caused by your jumping
ship, even at an earlty date when PAGES is renewed. I have found the lack of security to be
a ball and chain in my efforts to do good research. Now I am paid by the department - but
the irony is that they still hassle me to pay back my salary by teaching/supervising
students/getting research grants etc. For all her bravado in the Nature quote, Sarah too
feels the lack of security (and lack of respect for her work implied by the lack of a
secure post) in a very real sense (don't say I said so!). Personally, I think it is a
disgrace that a whole (second class) stratum of workers have to exist in this way in
I really believe that good science needs continuity and teamwork , and both are excluded in
the way research funds are allocated by many national and international bodies. I would
keep your ear closely to the ground and if an opportunity arises - take it. In the meantime
I do empathise with you . Sarah really loves her work and wants to do the glacier work .
That doesn't mean she could not have done it as well from here had the EC seen
differently. We are all adapting fine to the situation as it is , nevertheless. That
doesn't mean it is a reasonable or fair position to be in though.
very best wishes
At 12:34 PM 4/17/01 +0200, you wrote:

Hi Keith,
I just read some tidbidts from your family life in Nature. I hope all is
going well with Sarah's commute to Germany. This article was interesting for
me to read given that I am in a similar situation.
Here is my perspective. As you know the PAGES grant runs out at the end of
this year. I am submitting a renewal request this month to US and Swiss NSFs
(organizations with nominal acceptance rates no higher than 20%) and will
not know if my job continues until November of this year. Clearly this does
not leave me time to find a new position in the case of a negative reply. In
the event of a lack of continued funding, my visa status and contract would
lead to deportation with no unemployment benefits on January 1 2002. Of
course, if I had no family to support I might be more interested in taking
the risk, but the bottom line is I see no alternative but to begin applying
for other jobs now and have begun to do so. In the event that PAGES is
eventually refunded and I am not the executive director any more for this
reason, I suppose the loss of time and energy for the office staff counts as
an example of a downside to the "efficiency" of soft money funding.
By the way, what would you (or your wife) do in my shoes? I am not writing
to bellyache about the position I am in. I just thought you might have some
sage advice for me in light of the article in nature on this topic in which
your family's trials and tribulations receive some coverage.
Keith Alverson
Executive Director
PAGES International Project Office
B�renplatz 2, 3011 Bern
Tel: +41 31 312 31 33
Fax: +41 31 312 31 68

Dr. Keith Briffa, Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia,
Norwich, NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom
Phone: +44-1603-593909 Fax: +44-1603-507784

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