Management of medical research 'top-heavy'

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THE Medical Research Council, which has an annual budget of pounds 235m, is being accused of inefficient, out of date and top-heavy in management after a survey of 11 of 12 directors of its own research units, writes Celia Hall.

Writing in tomorrow's British Medical Journal, Roy Gillett, a senior scientific officer at the MRC's Dental Research Unit at the London Hospital Medical College, says: 'Neither the effectiveness nor efficiency could be claimed to be good.'

William Waldegrave, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, last month held up the MRC's management style as a model of good practice in his White Paper on science policy. But in a leading article supporting Mr Gillett, Dr Richard Smith, editor of the journal, calls for 'radical' change in management style.

'The picture that emerges is that the unit directors feel impeded rather than aided by the central MRC bureaucracy. One in eight of the MRC staff works in head office, which is positioned in an expensive part of central London and does not do research. Yet the directors feel they must do most of the managing of the units themselves.'

Mr Gillett calls for a new policy that follows health service reforms. The MRC central management would be the purchaser of research and the units the providers.