|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||N O V E M B E R D E C E M B E R 1999|
|F R O M||T H E||D E P U T Y||D I R E C T O R||F O R||I N T R A M U R A L||R E S E A R C H|
SPACE: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Space is always on everyones mind at the NIH. Lab directors want more space so they can expand their research programs. Postdocs want more space just so they can stretch out their arms and legs and not knock something over. We need safer, more efficiently designed space to maximize our productivity as scientists. My modest proposal in this essay is that as we develop new space at NIH we use it in equal measure to increase the space per working scientist and to provide spaceat a reduced densityto support important new scientific programs.
In the next few years, the NIH Master Plan includes construction of a new Vaccine Research Center (VRC), with completion expected next summer; a new consolidated laboratory building (Building 50, the Louis Stokes Laboratories), slated for completion at the end of 2000; and a new Clinical Research Center (CRC), with anticipated lab occupancy in December 2002. And there are otheralbeit not quite so dramaticenhancements scheduled.
The intent of the CRC and Building 50 is to replace existing, outmoded laboratories and clinics with newly designed space that is safer, more esthetically pleasing, and easier to maintain and provides more elbow room per person than currently exists. The VRC will house a new programHIV vaccine developmentthat is central to the NIH mission to improve the public health. As we assign people to these spaces, we will decompress existing programs by approximately 30 percent, giving each person more room. Altered laboratory design will make the corridors wider, the desks bigger, and lab bench footage longer. The net result is a safer, more user-friendly environment.
The temptation will always be there to bring in "just one more" person or large piece of equipment, but should each lab succumb to this temptation, we would, inevitably, find our collective selves again in too tight a spot. It is sheer myth that a critical mass of people in a lab leads to explosive results; the reality is that overcrowded labs frequently are not fully functional. We pay the price of crowding with irritable, less efficient, and less creative scientists and an increased risk of accidents. Former NIH postdoc Alex Dent made the point most eloquently in two Catalyst cartoons (one in 1995, the other in 1996), here reprised.
As an institution, lets resolve to be less short-sighted . . . . and less dense!
As usual, I welcome your comments.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research
Return to Table of Contents