Stop the disastrous reorganization of evolutionary biology at Leiden University


Evolutionary biology in Leiden will be halved due to a disastrous reorganization of the faculty of sciences. Proper training in evolutionary biology will not be possible anymore, although this is a necessary basis for all branches of biology. Training and research in theoretical modeling will also not be possible and Leiden will turn away from involvement in the current major ecological and evolutionary challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The following evolutionary biologists will be fired or cannot continue their research: Jacques van Alphen, Tom Van Dooren, Frietson Galis, Sacha Gultyaev, Patsy Haccou, Ken Kraaijeveld, Femmie Kraaijeveld, Hans Metz (retired, but still very active) and Rino Zandee. This list contains a Marie Curie professor of Excellence (JVA), the president of the European Society for Evolutionary Developmental Biology (FG) and the executive vice-president of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology (PH).

Although evolutionary biology will be heavily cut, molecular biology will be spared. This is part of an alarming national trend. As a result in Utrecht, which has the largest biology teaching program, hardly any evolutionary biologist is left since Gerdien de Jong retired. As a result many biology students will lack the necessary basic training in biology. Most research into the effects of climate change and biodiversity losses will need to be carried out abroad.

We strongly feel that the reorganization should be abandoned, which could be accomplished if:

For more detailed information, see below.

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So far, this petition has been signed by 5989 persons.

Why sign?

A cut of 25 to 30% has to be implemented by the Institute of Biology of Leiden University. Only evolutionary biologists will be fired and no molecular biologists. Entire labs will have to disappear. The plan particularly addresses the only groups that have strong theoretical and statistical expertise and for that reason support many other labs in and outside Leiden. Due to the breadth of the expertise that will disappear, the excellent teaching standards in evolution in Leiden will quickly decay. A related consequence will be that training and research in theoretical modeling will become impossible. No research-related teaching will be possible in the new curriculum in biology beyond the level of the whole organism. Hence no population courses will be offered that are necessary to understand the effect of climate change and biodiversity loss, nor master's projects on these subjects. Sadly, the only surviving centre of evolutionary biology in the Netherlands comparable to Leiden will be CEES in Groningen, the expertise of which does not overlap with but is complementary to that at Leiden University. Hence, in a national perspective it is disastrous that the cuts are mainly sought in evolutionary biology. Molecular biology is strong in all Dutch universities, and particularly in nearby Utrecht.

The plan also goes against the advice of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW), which recommended to strengthen biodiversity research at Leiden University to be able to synergize with the National Museum for Natural History and the National Herbarium, which are about to merge into a National Biodiversity Centre in Leiden.

Last but not least, the reputation of Leiden University will be dramatically affected if this reorganization is continued.

This petition is an initiative of ESEB (European Society for Evolutionary Biology).
Letters of support can be sent to .