This is the blog of Ant Miller, senior research manager and dilettante geek at large at the BBC.
I wail moan and cuss about the challenges and fun to be found here.
These are my personal opinions, and not those of my employer. Or anyone else here for that matter.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Relocating Research- some worries

Well there was me thinking that even if it wasn't exactly good news on the relocation front, at least it was news, so we could deal with things and get on with stuff. Sadly, it looks like we're still facing some problems. I haven't got hard numbers yet, but it's looking like a considerable proportion of the staff at the Surrey R&D establishment are sufficiently dissatisfied at the proposed move arrangements that they'd rather not stick around. This is a combination of far longer and harder commutes (which no amount of compensation can really make up for in terms of time and energy), a 'not as nice' place to work (probably a minor consideration), and a worrying lack of a clear long term plan for how and why we do R&D in all the announcements.

This last point is a bit of a shame- a real and, in many ways, an unavoidable effect of the increasingly fluid nature of the BBC. Whatever we say the arrangements will be, they're bound to be transitory, temporary, open to change. Sadly, when you've had a long term commitment and a permanent infrastructure to depend upon for many years this shift can really undermine your sense that you're valued.

So, how to fix? Not sure. We do need to have a clear (ish) statement of what we expect to do for a longer time frame. The level of detail may have to be cut to meet the needs of a changing future, but if we could have some statement of commitment to R&D with some sort of evidence supporting it in the very very near term, that would help. A stated expectation of the contribution that the corporation and the wider broadcasting industry and the nation as a whole anticipates coming from R&D will at least let us know we're wanted, and how hard we'll have to work (and hence what facilities, in general terms, we'll need).

Some sort of plan for where 'kit' might go after TVC gets sold off would be healthy too. A plan can be high level, but it's existence, and clear ownership, is essential to reassure those who's day to day work depends on what looks like being a fairly itinerant bunch of boxes over the next few years.

We could, usefully look at some more radical options for housing researchers too. We have other parts of the BBC who are distributed- so could research engineers work there? We have partner companies with facilities across the south east- could we work there? The danger, which I had thought had largely passed, seems still to be quite real. If people go in large numbers some key projects that support not only the BBC but the whole of broadcasting, could be in real trouble.

It may well be that many of these elements are in hand, and I have some intimation that innovative accommodation solutions are in the mix. This needs to be nipped in the bud though. At Christmas people go home, spend time with their families, and have time to contemplate their future. I don't want to come in after the new year to get an inbox full of leaving do invites.

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