Many scientists working in Mathematical/Theoretical Biology, Ecology, or Evolutionary Biology, will be familiar with the work of the Theoretical Biology group at Leiden University, led by Hans Metz since 1985. A number of fundamental contributions in the field of modeling animal behavior, structured populations and, of late, adaptive dynamics and evolutionary theory have been the products of this group during the last 20-25 years. This group is now threatened with extinction as a result of a re-channeling of most biological funding toward molecular biology. Notwithstanding the importance of these latter disciplines, to disband a research group with such an outstanding reputation I consider intolerable. Hence, I kindly ask you to consider the request of Hans Metz to write a letter of support to be sent to the Dutch Minister of Science and Education, the Rector of Leiden University and the Dean of the Leiden Faculty of Sciences, voicing your opinion on this policy.
Below you will find:
My apologies if this [letter] reaches you more than once. I am having it sent through different routes in order to give it the greatest possible distribution. (I even kindly ask you to relay it to colleagues whom to your knowledge might be willing to help and who are not on one of the lists through which this mail was sent to you.)
The Leiden Faculty of Sciences is scrapping my Theoretical Biology group.
The Faculty has to implement a 20% budget cut, mainly as the result of a countrywide reduction in enrollment in the sciences. Biology student numbers also decrease but much less so than in the other sciences. The Institute of Ecological and Evolutionary Sciences (EEW), which houses my Theoretical Biology group has kept attracting roughly the same number of students for the past years. The present yearly budget deficit of the EEW is 15%, that of the faculty 20% and at the EEW we are having a budget reduction of 55% imposed on us. According to the plan of the Dean of the Faculty, the preliminary form of which is currently circulating under wraps, the smallest departments, Astronomy and Mathematics, will be protected. In addition the research effort of the Faculty will be concentrated on Living Matter, i.e., the physics and chemistry of (sub)cellular processes, research that has its largest concentration in the Physics and Chemistry departments. Finally the Biology department and more in particular the EEW will be cut disproportionately, with only four out of its nine groups remaining.
Leiden Theoretical Biology is an order of magnitude smaller than, e.g., Theoretical Physics, and in my prejudiced opinion no less valuable. My group has extensively contributed to the theory of Adaptive Dynamics, Physiologically Structured Populations, and Continuous Time Markov Models for Animal Behaviour, and to a lesser extent to Mathematical Epidemiology, Metapopulation Theory, Evolutionary Game Theory, and Life History Theory. I hope that you are willing to argue our case in a letter to the Minister of Education and Science, the Rector Magnificus of Leiden University, and the Dean of our Faculty of Sciences. A link to addresses and a draft letter (please vary!!) are provided below.
The draft letter is very much geared to saving my group as such. However, we all would appreciate it if you were to weave in a few sentences stressing the need for safeguarding evolutionary biology, or population and organismal biology, against the onslaught wrought by an overly vigorous competition from the molecular sciences. In the long run we need all branches of biology. Moreover, a too depauperated School of Biology will attract few students!
Hans (J.A.J.) Metz
Section Theoretical Evolutionary Biology
Institute of Evolutionary and Ecological Sciences, EEW
NL-2311 GP Leiden, The Netherlands
PS: Please, send us also a "to whom it may concern" copy of your letter, so that we may pass that on to those members of parliament specializing in science and education for their respective parties:
Hans Metz, EEW
In the present plan of the faculty the following groups have to go:
The groups to be retained are:
Please keep this in mind while writing letters. I at least would appreciate if we could keep as much of the EEW, and of Leiden biology, intact as is feasible.
Officially my chair is in Mathematical Biology (not Theoretical Biology), and my group is called Theoretical Evolutionary Biology. Please make a choice. (There is no need to be precise.)
Presently my group consists of one professor, one senior lecturer (Patsy Haccou) one lecturer (Evert Meelis) [all tenured, but due to be fired], one postdoc on EU money (Tom van Dooren), and 5 PhD students (2 from university funds, 3 on grants). This is all that remains after the group was split in 1998 into a mathematically oriented group and an informatics and philosophy oriented group (Eke van Batenburg, Rino Zandee, and Diedel Kornet). Under the current plans both groups will disappear. The history of the group goes back to beginning as an independent Theoretical Biology department in 1957, prior to my becoming a student.
Recently we obtained:
A list of all PhDs involving the chair of Mathematical Biology since 1986
(the year Odo Diekmann and I were jointly appointed) can be found under:
A list of publications of the group since 1985 can be found under:
Further information, including the draft letter and this announcement, can
be found in a special issue of the SMB Digest at: