Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Dr William James, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford

  1.  I believe that proposals for reform of an institution of substance, like NIMR, need to start with an analysis of how it has been performing in relation to the function it is supposed to discharge.

  2.  It appears to me that the primary function is intended to remain the pursuit of medically-related research at the highest level.

  3.  Against this measure, the performance of NIMR is not evaluated in the document from the MRC entitled "NIMR: Consultation with Stakeholders, May 2004", and so all the prescriptions and possibilities that follow cannot be evaluated as solutions to the "problem".

  4.  I have briefly looked at the key outputs of NIMR over the last half decade in comparison with my own 5* institution, together with the financial inputs and believe the evidence indicates that the MRC is getting a good deal for its money.

  5.  If NIMR is not broken, why fix it, particularly if there is any serious danger that the operation has a risk of failure?

  6.  Briefly, NIMR has about twice the number of principal investigators than the Dunn School, costs approximately twice the amount to run and publishes approximately twice the number of papers.

  7.  The proportion of post-docs is lower and the proportion of support and admin staff higher at NIMR than here, but if the output is good, why should that be a concern?

  8.  Of the papers published in 1999 at both institutions, the top 10 cited papers from NIMR were cited an average of 186 times (+/-15) and the top five papers from the Dunn School in the same year were cited an average of 150 (+/-13) times.

  9.  This brief analysis suggests that NIMR is performing at the very top of the national scale in terms of quantity and quality of scientific output, at a cost per unit output that is comparable with another highly regarded, University-based institution.

  10.  The Task force needs to make a more persuasive case than it has that radical change is needed, in my view.

27 October 2004

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