UCSF cell biologist Ron Vale was recently appointed to be the new executive director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's in-house research arm, the Janelia Research Campus. According to ScienceInsider, he will replace fruit fly geneticist Gerald Rubin next January. Rubin has served as Janelia's director since its founding in 2003.
When Janelia first opened, it had a narrow focus on neurobiology. In late 2017, HHMI announced that focus areas for research at the campus would be limited to 15 years, ScienceInsider says. The institute is also refocusing its work on brain circuitry to study the mechanisms of cognition and is planning to add a new research area every 5 years. The first one will be chosen by an ongoing open competition.
In speaking with ScienceInsider about his new job, Vale says that although the 15-year time frames were decided on before he took the position, he's "fully on board" with the idea, as well as all the other changes that have been instituted.
"It's a very important balance between having enough time to take on important and potentially high-risk problems, but also from a counterpoint, having some dynamicity to the organization and the institute," he tells ScienceInsider. "[S]tarting off, 15 years is a nice amount of time. It promotes risk-taking and willingness to take on something ambitious at a much longer time scale than the standard 4- or 5-year grant. At the same time, there is some sense of urgency. I think some sense of a time window can be very healthy for people to feel like they should strive to succeed at the highest level and get as much done as they can in that period of time."
He also notes that this isn't the end of the changes taking place at the campus, adding, "There's going to be a continuous remodeling of Janelia in terms of projects and ideas. It will be fun for me and my goal is to make it fun for everyone working at Janelia."