Senior management at the University of Liverpool intend to make
47 academic staff members in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
redundant by the end of May 2021 as part of a restructure titled ‘Project
SHAPE’. The 47 academic staff members have been selected using
the following selection criteria:
1. A calculation of average research income as a comparison with elite Universities.
2. The use of a citation measure knowns as the Field Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) score which is calculated using Elsevier’s SciVal database.
They have been sacked because they are told they don’t earn enough in research grant income, and perform badly according to the FWCI. None of the staff selected for redundancy were made aware of the metrics, or how those metrics were applied. The University has ignored its redundancy and capability procedures.
We have never seen metrics used to ‘rank and yank’ the workforce in a UK university in this way before and we are worried that this is being treated as a test case. This practice is deliberately aimed at rendering permanent contracts worthless. If staff can simply be disposed of en masse, for reasons they have never previously been made aware of, then this opens the floodgates to a universal casualisation of the sector.
The University has faced calls from a number of the leading organisations who promote the responsible use of research ethics, along with thousands of academics around the world. They have ignored those calls, leaving us with no option but to ballot for for strike action to defend them.
The University of Liverpool used an FWCI score of 2 as the red line that puts our colleagues at risk of redundancy. In order to expose how crass this is, we have launched a publicity campaign called ‘Elsevier SciVal Top Trumps’. The campaign is based on the fact that many, if not most, of the worlds best known academics have a score of below 2.
• More than half of the 127 government SAGE advisers who are affiliated to universities have
2015-2020 SciVal scores below 2.
• 40% of all Nobel Prize Winners between 2018 and 2020 (10 out of a total of 25) have
2015-2020 SciVal scores of below 2.
If you are an academic and feature in ‘Elsevier SciVal Top Trumps’, please don’t worry since the scientists who administer FWCI have told us it is meaningless when applied to individuals.
Our campaign is certainly not aimed at Elsevier. We are launching this to expose the
University of Liverpool’s meaningless use of FWCI. We hope you enjoy playing ‘Elsevier SciVal Top Trumps.’
University of Liverpool UCU Branch, March 2021