What do (some) scientists think about the UKCMRI plan?
A friend suggested that we should highlight the testimony from Steven Ley from the National Institute for Medical Research to the Select Committee on Science and Technology. It dates back to 2004, but the basic question – why central London and not Mil Hill, wiith its myriad of advantages — remains to be answered by the consortium:
…we are astonished that the MRC has excluded the possibility of NIMR remaining at Mill Hill. Furthermore, while the MRC have recently requested that NIMR submit plans for an “enhanced” Institute at Mill Hill to act as a baseline comparison for the UCL and KCL bids, they have still refused to consider the Mill Hill site as a full option. This decision defies logic and common sense.
In our view the Mill Hill site offers enormous advantages over the proposed central London sites. We have extensive research animal facilities (9,000 square metres; housing mice, rats, frogs and fish) which are unique in the UK in terms of their size and “state of the art” capabilities. These animal facilities form an essential part of our research infrastructure. Replicating this on a central London site would be very expensive and also difficult to achieve in view of the likely response from animal rights groups.
…The Mill Hill site covers 47 acres, of which NIMR currently occupies about 25%. This provides the possibility of considerable expansion in the future, which could be funded by the MRC and also by inward investment from other stakeholders. This flexibility would be lost upon relocation, since the space available for the new NIMR would, for cost reasons, necessarily be limited to the current size of NIMR at Mill Hill at best. [in fact the proposed site is little over 3 acres]
…The decision to relocate NIMR to central London and to exclude the possibility of NIMR remaining at Mill Hill was taken by the MRC in light of recommendations from the Task Force. However it is clear from the reports of the Task Force and in subsequent emails (all released by the MRC) that the option of NIMR remaining at Mill Hill was not properly discussed at its fifth and final meeting. We consider this a clear failure of management of the Task Force by the MRC. The subsequent decision to exclude the Mill Hill option was reached by e-mail and telephone conversations and agreed by a 5-4 vote. The five member majority was achieved by the casting vote of the Chairman.