Just a short drive from Brussels is one of the world’s oldest universities, it may not have the marketing power of Stanford but the quality of its research is consistently impressive, especially in the sciences faculty, so you can imagine that I was rather upset to hear the following story.

It seems that a group of high profile Chemistry PhD students have been prevented from continuing their ground breaking research due to a serious safety hazard.  (Now I am never one to question safety because usually it boils down to the most important and basic human element – respect.  However, in this case I think that they deserve much better).

Apparently, after a leak of gas into the hallway from the laboratory an investigation team specified that an important process had been overlooked.  This has now been covered and the people involved re-trained accordingly. However one item remains open.

The door to the laboratory should have had a pane of glass in it so that visual checks can be maintained from outside.  A work order was made to the universities’ maintenance department to upgrade the wooden door.  This was several months ago and since that time no practical research has been carried out at all.  What should have taken a matter of hours has now dragged on for months!

I was told that the Maintenance & Technology services unit state that this kind of work does not come under their budget and that additional funds need to come from the faculty itself.  The faculty, in turn, are not happy with this but have agreed to pay.  However, the maintenance department say that they cannot do unplanned work and that it needs to be added to their annual budget and planned in at the beginning of the year, along with all the other assignments they have.

Apparently there is no shortage of people to do the work but that it is purely a question of following the right protocol!  In the meantime some of country’s best scientists sit around helpless while their professors and administrators continue their excruciatingly slow rounds of discussions, that up until now, have lead absolutely nowhere!

I would have volunteered to go over myself with my Bosch keyhole saw and some battens of wood, a piece of safety glass, some screws and a tube of mastic but apparently this is not ‘advised’.

I just wonder if on the other side of the world the same criminal madness can be found?  I use the word ‘criminal’ because valuable time is being wasted that can never be re-gained.  Opportunities are being stolen from a group of well-meaning young professionals.  What motivational lessons does this give the next generation and what hope have they got of seriously competing in the real world with a support organization and leadership team such as theirs?

Have a good week,