and that he had the freedom to explore his theoretical hypotheses without the risk of losing NIH funding.


The site visit team was very impressed with the Whitehead Institute. While the Markey funds certainly contributed to the success of this outstanding program, it is difficult to tease out Markey funds from the other sources of funding that were used to augment the Markey award. However, it is quite clear that both Markey funds and the other funds were used to create an atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration among the Institute’s scientists.

The site team has identified four characteristics that appear to make the Whitehead Institute productive and effective.

  1. Because Whitehead was conceived and built as a separate entity from MIT, its founders were able to create a research environment that did not bring with it some of the departmental “baggage” that traditional institutions may bring to a new program. In addition, the Markey award (along with other funding) was used for developing the institute as a whole and not just one area or department.

  2. The Markey award (along with other funding) was used to fund new and promising researchers. These scientists were either undergoing a change in career directions or a change in research interest and probably would not have received adequate funding to make these changes without the Markey award. The funds were sufficiently generous so that these scientists were free to focus solely on their research projects without having to be burdened with conducting other research or administrative activities.

  3. The physical layout and the vision of the Whitehead Institute encouraged collaboration and communication across disciplines. There are no barriers between labs and there are plenty of open spaces for informal discussions. The atmosphere of the Institute is one of openness.

  4. The recruitment of faculty or fellows is very informal, which lends itself to greater flexibility and possibilities. Search committees are not constrained by institutional requirements, which might limit recruitment in some organizations.

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