Over the years, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)-- the largest private philanthropic biomedical research organization in the United States--has had a major impact on American science. In 1993 alone, HHMI reportedly spent about $268 million in support of biomedical research in the nation, representing nearly one-fifth of the total amount doled out by nonprofit organizations.

And the investment has paid off--as evidenced by, among other things, HHMI researchers' prolific and influential publication record: Last year, for example, nearly one- quarter of the 200 most cited biomedical publications by U.S. scientists were authored by HHMI-affiliated investigators (see story on page 14).

But despite the institute'S imposing presence and glowing achievements, some researchers and agency officials contend that certain side-effects of the HHMI program are not in the best interests of the scientific research community or the scientists themselves.

They claim, for example, that the program fosters a scientific elitism that...

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