The past few months have been difficult ones for the National Institutes of Health and its director, James B. Wyngaarden. A series of public controversies has rocked the institution, tarnishing what many regard as the crown jewel of the federal scientific establishment. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees NIH, removed Edwin Becker as head of NIH’S Office of Research Services for “inefficiency and mismanagement,” despite strong opposition from Wyngaarden and his top staff The Office of Management and Budget insisted that NIH reduce the proportion of the more than 3,000 intramural managers and scientific staff on NIH’S Bethesda campus who receive outstanding performance citations— and the salary raises that accompany them—and reclassify downward some staffers so cited. And House subcommittees held two contentious hearings on fraud in biomedical science and NIH’S role in controlling it.

The 63-year-old Wyngaarden became NIH director in 1982, after establishing an enviable...

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