Prospect condemns food research cuts

Prospect condemns food research cuts

Prospect, the union for scientists at the Institute of Food Research (IFR) in Norwich, has condemned the announcement by the institute that it is to cut 40.5 science posts – from a total of 182 – because of financial constraints and limited restructuring. IFR is the only publically-funded research organisation in England dedicated to food science.

Nigel Titchen, Prospect national Vice-President said: “Prospect views this loss of good scientists and core skills, which are extremely hard to replace, as very regrettable. Although IFR says the cuts are due to financial necessity, Prospect has not been able to establish the validity of this because IFR’s business plan has not been made available to the trade unions.

“Indeed publically available information on the state of the institutes’ finances, held by the charities commission, provides no evidence of the problems faced by IFR.

“Staff are rightly extremely angry and disillusioned that the institute could contemplate discarding such expertise when human diet and nutrition are major public concerns and food security is one of the government’s stated priorities.”

The finances of IFR have apparently come under pressure because its core funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has not been increased in line with inflation since 2005. A scientific restructuring in 2006, carried out by previous director Professor David White, failed to generate extra external income.

Titchen said all research establishments were under increasing pressure to generate external income.

“This is increasingly difficult to achieve in the current economic climate. In IFR’s case this has been exacerbated by frequent alterations in research strategy, which has caused the loss of a number of key earners. At a time when government public spending is likely to reduce, this presents a very serious situation, both for those who may lose their jobs but also for the future sustainability of this vital publically-funded institute,” warned Titchen.