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Let’s borrow a meme from DrugMonkey, who is hosting the up-coming July Scientiae Blog Carnival (I’ll put a link in once it’s live). DrugMonkey writes:

I thought it would be fun to revive an old game we played in my grad-lab, ‘Fantasy Institute’. The rules of the game are simple – you have been selected as the Director of a newly endowed research institute. It is your job to decide where the institute will be based, its codes of conduct, its structure, and who you will hire. Dream away! Tell us what would make your institute a haven for scientists. A ‘everyone must leave by 5pm’ rule? A woodland setting with squirrel feeders? Daily shipments from your favourite supplier?

I invite readers to add their favourite ideas, serious, fun or even silly in the comments. What features would you want?

To encourage readers, I’ll stick my neck and offer a random bag of late-night offerings. I’d be more serious, but this isn’t the time…

An bottomless endowment fund. Hey, who wouldn’t want that? Want that 500MHz NMR spectroscope?That (smallish) supercomputer? A new electron microscope? The latest high-throughput DNA sequencer? Just go and buy it.

A research institute. Researchers are encouraged to teach undergraduate students, but are not obliged to. They would be strongly encouraged to teach their fellow staff the rudiments of their patch. No ‘isolated islands’ in my institute.

Café-bars. Essential! Put on a selection of them. Architecturally designed, of course. Excellent food, choice wines, beers and non-alcholic drinks. Affordable pricing. With long opening hours. (Seriously, having a genuinely welcoming setting for staff to informally mix can be a real benefit to a place.)

All newcomers get to choose a buddy, esp. for younger staff and post-graduate students. I’m thinking here of a proactive effort so that problems are less likely to arise and/or fall between the cracks.

Talented staff science writers that maintain background in your interests and check with you before releasing things to the public! (I’ve got to cater for my science communication readers too…)

Decent walk-out-the-door access to wilderness or the next best thing. This is a fantasy institute. When I’m reading and thinking, I like to take myself someplace out of the office. (To sod with squirrel feeders. Not that we have squirrels in New Zealand to start with…) Maybe cross-country skiing in winter?

Parallel to the research ’hierarchy’, a management hierarchy that proactively takes care of the management issues. Accounting. Ordering stuff. Whatever. Researchers do research. (And manage their research team.)

Too serious and niche for this list, computational biologists would have their own stand-alone research groups, with encouragement for computational biology collaborations with ’wet’ (bench) research staff.

And a bunch of others but this should get you going, right?

So… what would you have?


Other articles on Code for life:

Royal Society publishing free to read, 1665 – today

What is your relationship with your research notebook?

I remember because my DNA was methylated

Testing common ancestry to all modern-day life

You can change the ideas, but not the data