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Hughes's Tjian Holds to a ‘Global’ Standard of Merit

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Science  10 Jul 2009:
Vol. 325, Issue 5937, pp. 134
DOI: 10.1126/science.325_134

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Biochemist Robert Tjian, 59, took the helm of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in April at a challenging time, after its endowment, which had stood at $17.5 billion last August, had been battered by the economic recession. One of his first actions was difficult: He notified HHMI's 350 investigators at universities and scientists at its research center, Janelia Farm, that their budgets will likely be trimmed 5.5% in 2010. But Tjian points out that the blow, which won't affect new and early-career scientists, will be softened by federal stimulus money for biomedical research. The trim also pales compared with the 10% cut his predecessor, Thomas Cech, made in the budget in 2002 after the dot-com bubble burst. On 25 June, Tjian spoke with Science in his office in Chevy Chase, Maryland. His comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.