Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Dr Douglas Robinson, Imperial College London

  I do not see a strong case for relocation, in fact rather the opposite. My reasons are as follows:

  1.  The existing team at NIMR have an excellent record in research across a broad range of biomedical science (as evidenced by their track record of publications). One only has to visit the building to sense the excellent atmosphere of teamwork and co-operation which is sadly lacking in many university campuses. The staff of NIMR are justly proud of their achievements and the existing enquiry process has already sapped morale. I believe a prolonged relocation process would risk destroying the loyalty and dedication which is the institute's strength.

  2.  The existing institute has facilities second to none, particularly the animal facility, which represents an important national resource and would be very difficult to recreate in a central London site. One only has to think of recent problems in Oxford to appreciate the practical difficulties and potential expense involved.

  3.  One reason for proposing a move is to foster links with clinical research and to build on "translational research". It seems to me that physical relocation is not required for this process: indeed NIMR already has many collaborative links (for example I have applied for joint grants with Dr O'Garra at NIMR to link basic and clinical work in tuberculosis). To restrict these to any one site seems to represent a misunderstanding of the interactive nature of biomedical research.

  4.  The training of clinicians in scientific research should be an important priority for the country: the current clinical training programmes and structures actually militate against such interactions and the fact that there is integrated clinical/research training programme in the UK is a national disgrace which reflects badly on the MRC. It would seem to be much better to seize the opportunity to develop clinical science training programmes from the Mill Hill site rather than to use precious resources on unnecessary rebuilding (which seems unwanted by those conducting the research).

  In summary I think the review of NIMR represents a great opportunity for the MRC to re-establish its credentials as leading medical research thinking in the UK. As a co-holder of an MRC co-operative grant whose research is entirely supported from other sources, I have to say that for too long British Science has had to rely on other income streams (charities including the Wellcome Trust and industry). The MRC must prove that it can effectively husband the resources it holds if it is make a cogent case for increased research funding in the UK. To propose disruption and relocation of its flagship research institute when this is not wanted by the research community seems to me an extraordinary diversion from this purpose.

12 November 2004

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