Her life in the public eye had given her unrivalled connections, and she was able to raise more than £10 million for the architect Terry Farrell to renovate the RI for the 21st century. It now boasts a highly imaginative use of its museum of laboratory instruments, fun interactive displays about the 10 elements discovered in its own laboratories, about the periodic table and about the parts of the brain, together with the famous lecture theatre with Faraday's desk, splendid library and other meeting rooms, bar and restaurant. The Queen reopened it in May 2008 and particularly commended the lightness achieved by Farrell's high atrium and also a beautiful chandelier assembled from small brass laboratory instruments.
Note however the date, May 2008: the RI reopened just as the recession took hold. Compounding this bad luck, the decision seems to have been taken to economise on advertising its new facilities. So few people ever got to hear about them. The expected numbers wanting to use the RI, both corporate and individual, failed to materialise. Takings declined greatly and it is now in deficit, allegedly by £2 million.
Susan Greenfield's reward for piloting the RI into the 21st century was to be effectively sacked. In a move of unbelievable stupidity, its council decided to save money by abolishing the office of director. Accordingly, Professor Baroness Greenfield was declared redundant and escorted off the premises. This decision was incredibly foolish for two reasons. First, because it is not clear that the RI Council actually has the powers to abolish a 200-year-old post established by Act of Parliament. Second, and more importantly, Susan Greenfield was the one person who had the charisma and connections to keep up morale and raise the small amount of money that was needed to get over these difficult times. It was an extreme case of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
How on earth did this sorry state of affairs arise? A petty and spiteful detail of her dismissal, namely that the plaque commemorating her contribution to the RI refurbishment was removed that very day, suggests that lack of money was not the only issue, but that more personal dislikes and jealousies were involved, and that she was being scapegoated.
The director is not responsible for the finances of the RI — the council is. Unlike some of the bankers on the council, she cannot be blamed for the economic downturn. The decision to declare her redundant was taken at meetings to which she was not invited, and her views and suggestions as to how to deal with the financial problems were apparently ignored. Two very important council members were so outraged by her treatment that they resigned in protest.