Harvard, Hopkins, Stanford -- these are names that immediately spring to mind when one thinks of top-flight biological and biomedical research institutions in the United States. But it is important to remember that smaller institutions also contribute significantly to scientific knowledge. In fact, according to data from the Institute for Scientific Information's Science Citation Index (SCI), a few small independent research institutes in the U.S. carry just as much clout (or more) as do the "monoliths of medicine," at least when measured by citations to their papers.

Using ISI's data, The Scientist calculated the citation impact of the 74 members of the Association of Independent Research Institutes (AIRI), a consortium of nonteaching organizations that focus largely on biological and biomedical research. The papers tracked in this analysis were published between 1973 and 1987 and had to have been indexed in the SCI. The citations that were tallied for those papers...

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