It's one of the most influential positions within all of British science, controlling an average annual budget of around £600 million. So it's hardly surprising that tongues are wagging over who will succeed Michael Dexter as director of the Wellcome Trust when he steps down at the end of March.

The Wellcome Trust press office says only that there have been a number of applications, from which a short-list of candidates will be drawn up and an appointment officially announced in the New Year.

But scientists already have their own ideas about the kind of successor they would like to see, and the message is it must be someone with sufficient scientific kudos, whose primary commitment will be to the progress of research rather than the bureaucracy of the institution.

"I'd like to see someone who can slash through the bureaucracy," said one senior cancer researcher, who asked not to...

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