This week we – the Francis Crick Institute – officially begin the move into our new building. The contractors are still putting the finishing touches to the building as well as completing systems testing but the installation of electron microscopes and NMR machines is beginning in the basement. Over the next 6 months we’ll be occupying the building, moving in equipment, people and animals, and turning our pristine new building into a biomedical research institute.
I imagine that this will be a unique few months and I don’t want to miss the opportunity of documenting what I expect to be an eventful and exciting time. I want to use the blog to record the move itself, to reflect on how we got to where we are today and to contemplate the future. For me, the start of the move into the building is a major milestone in a story that began back in 2003 with the MRC’s Forward Investment Strategy and subsequently took various twists and turns. I’m sure I’ll return to some of these in future posts. I also expect there will be other subjects and distractions that come up over the next few months that I’ll want to comment on.
The ambitious plans and the opportunities promised by the Crick have stimulated a lot of debate. Whenever I meet colleagues – whether in the UK or abroad – the topic comes up. It has challenged many of us employed by the Crick, as well as many in the scientific community, to think about how research is organized, how academic careers are managed and what directions science will take over the next 10-20 years. Even before the first labs have moved into the building, the idea of the Crick is having a major impact on how we do science and influencing the science we do. I think this is as it should be. Research institutes and academic groups are about people and ideas not buildings or places. Being invited to think in new ways about our research or to justify what we currently do is unsettling but also liberating and invigorating. I’m keen to see how the thoughts and discussions we’ve had over the last few years change and solidify as the concepts become reality in the new building.
On a more practical level, in my lab there is still a sense of unreality about the move. We know it’s going to happen: we’ve made plans, sat through many meetings and been given copious amounts of information, but until we see the first removal vans arriving, it’s difficult to believe that it will happen. The day to day business of doing experiments, reading papers, going to seminars, writing manuscripts is sufficiently consuming that it’s easy to forgot what we’re about to go through. Keeping busy and focusing on the science has minimised anxiety and uncertainty about the move. It’s only occasionally, when there’s time to pause and lookup, do we get a chance to think and reflect. I hope I can jot down some of those moments here.