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Center of (your noun here)
by Randall C. Willis  |  Email the author

I sometimes think we're trying too hard and that people really need to learn how to relax a little. As that famous psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman said: "Drop your drawers and slide along the ice."

A couple of weeks ago, a membrane and sample prep specialist opened a new life sciences Center of Excellence in India. At a rough guess, that makes 4317 Centers of Excellence around the world—many of them linked directly or tangentially to drug development. That's quite a bit of excelling we're asking of biomedical researchers.

Now, I am confident that many people working in these centers are truly—as Wayne and Garth would say with bobbing heads—"Excellent". But let's face it, most of the rest of us are just muddling along—doing well, but just able to stay ahead of the curve. How do we feel about the pressure of being excellent?

To keep people from feeling bad about their "inexcellence", I offer the following alternatives to Centers of Excellence:

Center of Competence:
We may not make the front pages of the newspaper, but at least we have a fighting chance of accomplishing our goals and making the world a better place.

Center of Sufficiency:
Okay, so we're not as spit-and-polished as a lot of other centers, but you're not going to die and we're better than nothing.

Center of Indifference:

Center of Reluctance:
We'd really rather be fishing or playing golf, but we'll do what we can because we really need the money.

Center of Resistance:
We really think you'd be better off going with one of the other centers.

Center of Intransigence:
We'll take you, but you better be willing to do things our way!

Center of Recalcitrance:
(He's ignoring you.)

Center of Incompetence:
Welcome to Capitol Hill.
Our readers respond
Nice article on centers of excellence. A couple of thoughts to extend the idea a bit. Maybe the plethora of new drug candidates (mostly antibodies) being developed today will make the first decade of the 21st century "excellent", but it seems to me the Golden Decade was the 1980s, when the "centers" did their thing excellently. That is, drug companies developed drugs and everyone else did basic research.
I like your term "muddling" to describe the '90s. It was the '90s that brought outsourcing R&D, centers of excellence or core labs, and an addiction to genomics—maybe this brought the house down. Just a thought. Keep it up with more opinions please.
Dr. Russell K. Garlick, CTO
Protein Forest, Inc, Waltham, MA



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