Saturday, October 16, 2010

Community pressure saves micropalaeontology group

A highly respected palaeontology group based at London’s Natural History Museum may escape the chop after an international campaign to ensure its future.

Huge outcry greeted the announcement that the museum was to axe its micropalaeontology group as part of a wider cost saving effort. Scientists from across the world warned that expertise vital for understanding subjects from climate change to evolution would be lost (see: ‘Axe hovers over UK museum jobs’ and ‘Researchers unite behind museum’s threatened department’).

Now the museum says that while three positions will be eliminated two new positions will be created “to meet the expressed needs of the micropalaeontology research community”. With the two new jobs earmarked for current staff this means only one job in the four-person department will go and it can continue to operate.

Richard Lane, director of science at the museum, says the new-look section will focus on four areas: the development of the museum’s collections; doing research; training the wider community; and scientific consultancy work.

“We changed because of the very large response we had externally,” says Lane.

This response highlighted a number of opportunities, he says, a point that has wider relevance as UK scientists brace for spending cuts expected in the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 20 October. Advocacy has the most impact, he says, when it identifies opportunities rather than just saying “please maintain the status quo”.

The new jobs will mean savings will have to be made elsewhere in the museum, although Lane says these savings are not currently planned to include redundancies. Whether that will still be the case after 20 October is currently unclear.

Cressey, Daniel. 2010. "Community pressure saves micropalaeontology group". The Great Beyond. Posted: October 11, 2010. Available online:

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