Pasteur researchers win fight to stay in city centre

Mediator report says move to commercial zone isn't needed.


Scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have won a long running battle over plans to move labs to a commercial zone on the outskirts of the city. In a report presented to the management on 24 February, external arbitrators said that the move was “not necessary”.

The mediators were John Skehel, a virologist and director of Britain's National Institute for Medical Research in London, and John Wills, the UK institute's administrator. They said that the Pasteur's plans to renovate its labs in central Paris could be accomplished in phases, without moving staff elsewhere.

Philippe Kourilsky, the director-general of the Pasteur Institute, had planned to move hundreds of scientists to a new site at Fresnes, southeast of Paris (see Nature 432, 788; 2004 10.1038/432788a). Staff protested that the site was in an undesirable area with poor public transportation. A petition signed by more than half the staff says that they “understand neither the necessity, nor the rationale” of the move.

The report highlights staff concerns that there should be “minimum effect on the progress of interactive research programmes during refurbishment”. Additional space could be created, it adds, by temporarily moving BioTop, Pasteur's biotechnology ‘incubator unit’, to one of Paris's many science parks.

“The mediators' conclusions are a complete disavowal of management,” says Agnès Labigne, head of Pasteur's Pathogenesis of Mucosal Bacteria unit.

Stewart Cole, senior vice-president for scientific affairs, says management will take the report's advice. “Skehel and Wills did a serious job; they came here six times, and had complete freedom to go anywhere, and to speak to anyone,” he says. “Their conclusions are clear.”

Although scientists seem likely to stay on campus during the refurbishment, a broader question remains regarding the need to expand to a second or new campus — to build high-throughput biology platforms, for example. Cole says that this will be given “more thought”.

The mediators' report emphasized that any expansion should be firmly based on a long-term scientific strategy worked out in full consultation with the institute's researchers. “What we need now is reconciliation,” says Cole. “The report provides us with the framework to do this.”


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Butler, D. Pasteur researchers win fight to stay in city centre. Nature 434, 7 (2005).

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