Memorandum from Kenneth Fleming, University
In response to your request for submissions
on the above, as head of the Medical Sciences Division at the
University of Oxford, I have three comments.
1. With regard to the mission of the NIMR,
I would agree that a move in the direction of translational and
clinical research is correct. However, it is also important to
ensure that this does not diminish the importance of the basic
science, since ultimately clinical applications rely on discoveries
in the basic science arena. Furthermore, given the lack of previous
track record, developing a translational and clinical research
activity is a major ambition. It will require very significant
change of culture and leadership. Apart from outstanding leadership,
to achieve this will certainly need physical co-location and close
interaction and integration with an organisation with a strong
tradition and record of achievement in this arena.
2. Following from the above, remaining on
the Mill Hill site would severely compromise the integration required.
Therefore, the option of moving all of the activity onto another
and more appropriate single site is superficially attractive.
My preferred solution to the issue of co-location would be a distributed
model involving higher educational institutes with the relevant
skills and commitment and track record of achievement, both within
and without London, the best locations being delivered by a competitive
bidding process. However, given the current plans for a central
London site, the scientific case for UCL is generally accepted
as being stronger than that of Kings across a broader range of
activities which are likely to be complementary with the current
NIMR activities. Measuring this is, of course, not straightforward,
but surrogates such as RAE scores and external peer-reviewed grant
income would appear to support this. However, I understand the
Council of the MRC will be analysing exactly these sort of measures
in addressing the relative merits of UCL and Kings.
3. The other vital consideration is the
financial case, both for capital and revenue. I do not know what
is being proposed by Kings and UCL, but given the financial situation
of the MRC, the final solution must be as cheap and cost-effective
as possible. The MRC is currently unable to fund some of its most
highest rated grant applications and, anything which makes this
situation worse, is clearly against the best interests of the
22 November 2004