As you enter, you see ahead of you the vast floors of laboratories of the largest medical research laboratory in the world with over 1000 scientists carrying out ground-breaking life-changing research. With this number of scientists in the Francis Crick Institute, think about the technical expertise needed to support the scale of research – the range of equipment in the building and the need to set up, maintain, alter and sometimes invent new equipment (3,000 items in a year), the number of glass bottles, test tubes and other vessels that need to be washed and sterilised in a year (750,000 items per annum), the importance of growing and managing billions of cells for scientific experimentation, and the skills and precision involved in microscopy and in caring for 15,000 fly families. One small mistake could destroy years of research.
The Crick is recognising the technical expertise behind the sciences – the hidden heroes whose work is essential to enable life-changing science to happen – in its current exhibition ‘Craft and Graft’ – unglamorous, but essential. What is slightly surprising is how the old ways are still the best, like notebooks, pens and post-it notes!