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What makes Massachusetts General Hospital, this year's number-one pick, a great place to do research? One obvious asset, says Dennis Brown, a researcher in the hospital's membrane biology program, is its prime location in Boston. Yet it's not just about auspicious geography: With 22.5 acres of lab space and a $528 million annual research portfolio, the hospital's 2,000-plus researchers have lots of room to pursue their interests - and plenty of top-notch colleagues to bounce ideas off of. "It gives people an opportunity to do great research," Brown says.
MGH's Executive Committee on Research (ECOR) helps integrate the entire research community by holding monthly meetings. There, all staffers have an opportunity to vet concerns and discuss anything from scientific ethics to lab animal costs to the research promotion structure. "If people are unhappy, it gets discussed," says Daniel Haber, chief of the MGH Cancer Center and vice chairman of ECOR. "It's a big place, but there's a sense that people matter."
Hospital leadership also deserves credit for its success, says Brown. For instance, when the hospital recently received a large settlement from a drug patent lawsuit, it "gave $20 million to ECOR to distribute as it saw fit to better support research," Brown says. The committee now provides interim support to researchers who lost grants during the current NIH lean period. "The hospital is really thinking of how to support investigators," Brown says.
Another positive move, says Randall Peterson, an investigator in the hospital's Cardiovascular Research Center, is a recent shuffling of hospital departments. Rather than centering study on organ systems, research is now organized by theme areas, such as regenerative medicine or computational biology. "That's fueled an unusual amount of cross-departmental interactions," Peterson says. "It's among the most collaborative environments that I've ever been in."