HHMI: Catalyst for Discovery

In 2017, HHMI committed to four core priorities to guide strategic decisions about our work in discovery science; diversity, equity, and inclusion; public engagement; and improving the culture of academic science. We plan to release an update in 2022.

Read our full vision statement (PDF) »

Joanne Chory, HHMI Investigator, and Marco Burger work in Joanne's lab at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. Discovery ScienceWe drive scientific discovery by giving scientists the resources and time they need to create new knowledge.

HHMI places big bets on excellent scientists – giving them generous resources and letting them decide what to study. We believe this unusual “people, not projects” approach is the surest path to new knowledge. Our scientists open doors to research fields, treatments, and a better future for all of us.

Here’s what we’re doing:

Refining our research support to give scientists their best shot at future breakthroughs.
  • We increased the HHMI Investigator term from five to seven years and standardized Investigator research budgets.

    To commit to the kind of rigorous, open-ended research that HHMI expects, our scientists need generous, flexible, and long-term support. We continually monitor the research environment in which our scientists operate so we can recognize and respond to their needs.

Ensuring our Janelia Research Campus’s ability to innovate through regular transformation.
  • We shifted to supporting up to three major research areas at once, each for 15 years.

    We provide the conditions for Janelia’s experimentalists, theorists, and toolmakers to collaborate in a concentrated fashion in order to catalyze progress in a research field. To maintain creative agility, we’ve developed a plan for the regular turnover of primary research areas. The first of the new areas, Mechanistic Cognitive Neuroscience, is being established by consolidating, refocusing, and extending our neurobiology programs to explore questions about how the brain enables cognition. Across this work, we’ve renewed our emphasis on recruiting outstanding scientists to Janelia, including early career scientists who may be right out of graduate school.

Erich Jarvis, HHMI InvestigatorDiversity, Equity, and InclusionWe work to increase racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in academic science and to create environments in which everyone can thrive.

For more than 30 years, HHMI has supported talented students from underrepresented backgrounds through our science education programs. More recently, we’ve expanded our support to postdoctoral researchers and early career, independent faculty. This work continues.

Today, we’re placing increased emphasis on the experience of science – the equity and inclusion that enables students and scientists from all backgrounds to thrive. We’re doing this by taking concrete steps toward more consistent and effective mentorship, community, and professional development. We are expanding our efforts to influence an entire career span in academic science. And we are deepening our commitment to equity and inclusion for our administrative employees.

Here’s what we’re doing:

Renewing our commitment to diversify academic science.

In 2021, HHMI renewed our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, pledging $2 billion to achieve concrete goals that will benefit us all. A major focus of HHMI’s strategy is to influence academic science at key points along career pathways, from undergraduate to tenured faculty. Read more about HHMI’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

Teachers in a BioInteractive workshopPublic EngagementWe tell powerful stories of science to inspire, educate, and inform the public.

We need future scientists. We need voters who support science as a public good and healthcare consumers who trust good science. We need decision-makers who understand how science works and why it matters. And to achieve any of this, we need a scientifically informed public. That’s why HHMI supports high school and college classroom experiences, journalism, and creative storytelling that brings science to life.

Here’s what we’re doing:

Sharing the most important scientific issues of our time.
  • We’ve expanded our media partnerships to deepen coverage of science, including the fate of our biosphere.

    Our growing list of partners includes the Associated Press, The Atlantic, Science Friday, and the Pulitzer Center.

Taking viewers along on the journey of science, on the big screen and in classrooms.
  • We are bringing science stories to people all over the world.

    Through our Tangled Bank Studios production company, we are working with original filmmakers to craft science films for broadcast, theatrical, and digital distribution. Recent titles include Inventing Tomorrow, The Serengeti Rules, Backyard Wilderness, and the Emmy Award-winning The Farthest: Voyager in Space. This popular content extends HHMI’s long-standing commitment to more formal storytelling, which our BioInteractive Program brings into high school and college classrooms through free multimedia resources for teachers.

HHMI, ASAPBio, and Wellcome host a Peer Review in the Life Sciences WorkshopHealthy Academic EcosystemWe work to redefine success in science, within our institution and with other leaders in science.

Science is a group endeavor. We believe today’s most successful scientists think broadly, engaging with others and recognizing the impact of science on our lives. We are working to foster open science and more effectively recognize scientists for the quality of their research and contributions to the scientific community.

Here’s what we’re doing:

Working to modernize how the scientific community shares and credentials research findings and, in turn, recognizes scientists for their contributions.
  • We are promoting a scientific culture and systems that emphasize quality work, open discussion, and mentorship over quantity of output or publishing in select journals. By cohosting workshops with Wellcome, ASAPbio, the American Society for Cell Biology, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, and others, we are challenging researchers, funders, and publishers to consider new models. Erin O’Shea, president of HHMI, and Bodo Stern, our chief of strategic initiatives, lead conversations on these critical issues. In 2019, they published a perspective piece in PLOS Biology.

  • We are changing how we share science.

    Effective January 2022, HHMI policy requires that all HHMI lab heads publish in a manner that makes their research articles freely available on the publication date, under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).