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Robert Tjian, the head of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is stepping down at the end of next year, ScienceInsider reports.

It notes that, despite HHMI's flat budget, Tjian has been able to launch a number of new initiatives, while still supporting more than 300 investigators.

"The investigator program is the bedrock of the institute," Tjian tells ScienceInsider. "We've done some tweaking around the edges, like more frequent competitions so that people out there don't feel like they've missed out."

Under Tjian, the number of HHMI-funded postdocs has grown and a graduate student award program has been brought back. It's also instituted five-year phase-out awards for senior researchers who want to move away from the institute.

"Because being a Hughes investigator, you're constantly competing with yourself. You have to perform better than you did the past five years," Tjian says. "All of us, at some stage of our career, get to the stage of not doing that anymore. It doesn't mean you're not doing really good science, but you can't keep beating yourself. This [is] a really nice way of, instead of being cut off at the knees, this is a more dignified way to go out."

At the same time, the institute created a nonprofit science documentary company and joined forces with other to start the open-access journal eLife.

Tjian adds that he's looking forward to getting back to his lab at the University of California, Berkeley. "There's a lot of exciting things going on and I feel like I'm missing out," he says.

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