Thursday, 13 March 2014

ESRC Seeks New CEO

The ESRC has started the process of recruiting its new Chief Executive. As is more and more the case, it has put its trust in the hands of headhunters. This is mistake number one. As everyone knows, headhunters almost never understand the specific requirements of academia, and assume it functions like any other business. Thus, Messrs Saxton Bamfylde (for it is they) are advertising the position as follows:

'The Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) will appoint a new Chief Executive of the ESRC when the post becomes vacant on 1 September 2014. Candidates need to be able to command the respect of the academic and user communities across the domain of the economic and social sciences through their personal achievements in research and their standing in the field. They will also need to demonstrate the ability to provide sound management and strong leadership of a substantial and complex body with efficiency and probity, combined with excellent communication skills required to represent the Council and foster links with its numerous and diverse stakeholders across Government, academia, learned societies, industry/business as well as the public at large, both in the UK and internationally'. 
So let's see. Essential criteria are:

  • Ability to command respect through personal achievement and standing in the field;
  • Ability to provide sound management and strong leadership of a complex body with efficiency and probity;
  • Excellent communication skills;
  • Ability to foster links with numerous and diverse stakeholders.
Given these, I think that the headhunters will come up with a shortlist of six:

  • Candidate 1: Worzel Gummage. Strong track record in commanding respect (amongst crows) whilst standing in a field. Demonstrates sound management and strong leadership (of turnips), and control over complex body (that has the ability to shift between mannequin and human) is admirable. Communicates well, despite a slight speech impediment and a penchant for 'a cup of tea and a slice of cake', and has fostered excellent links with Aunt Sally.
  • Candidate 2: Adolf Hitler: Whilst somewhat brutal, his ability to command respect is undeniable. Strong leadership and excellent communication too: this guy sounds like the complete package. Fostering links is - ah - a bit of an Achille's heel. Tends to make friends one day and invade you the next.
  • Candidate 3: Joan of Arc. Dead white female. Which makes a change, and will do wonders for ESRC's Athena SWAN credentials. Commands respect, especially amongst Catholics. Strong leadership. Excellent communication skills (with God). Once again, fostering links is a bit dodgy. Excellent if you're French. Not so good for the English. Which could be a problem. 
  • Candidate 4: Cat in the Hat. Excellent communication skills, and commands absolute respect amongst under fives. His ability to do tricks and balance things is useful when securing the research budget and justifying the Social Sciences. Can make excellent links with Thing One and Thing Two. Somewhat chaotic, however, and could end very nastily. Nevertheless, if we stipulate that he must bring his all clearing machine, he could be a winner.
  • Candiate 5: Zeus. No problem commanding respect, and good leadership qualities. However, communication skills leave something to be desired; I mean, does he have to keep using thunderbolts? It's a bit rudimentary, isn't it? Hasn't he heard of email? Worse still, we could open ourselves for so many paternity suits and sex scandals. I mean, all those partners! All those children!
  • Candidate 6: Nick Clegg. Oh come on. Be serious.

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