And yet, according to Kieron Flanagan, senior lecturer in science and technology policy at the University of Manchester, the sums involved still present a moral dilemma. “There’s clearly some kind of opportunity cost of such a major investment on the part of the government and its partners,” he told THE. “It’s money that could have been spent elsewhere in the country, for instance, or on other ways of supporting biomedical research.”
In judging the Crick’s successes, he continued, a more interesting question to ask would be what nationwide impact the institute has had so far. Dr Flanagan, who admits to having been highly critical of the project in the past, said that there has clearly been a positive impact in that the Crick has “changed the way we think about science funding in the UK”.
“We’ve since seen the launch of the mini-Crick of the North, the Sir Henry Royce Institute [in Manchester],” he noted, something that arguably would never have been conceived before the creation of the Crick – yet another major London-based research operation – had sparked debate about the geographical concentration of research.
“We’ve also seen the redrawing of the research council system into UK Research and Innovation,” Dr Flanagan said of the changes since the Crick was first proposed. This was a move that some people claim was pushed for “in order to create a funding system more suited to this new era of mega-institutes that could be said to be ‘too big to fail’ and that would realistically always have to have first call on the support of their funders”, he said.