Investigators at each HHMI host institution are supported by an HHMI Science Operations field office.

Each office is led by a Science Operations manager, who acts as liaison to the host institution. Each office’s activities are coordinated with HHMI headquarters.

Examples of operational matters handled by an HHMI field office include:

  • Coordinating investigator purchases made using HHMI funds;
  • Coordinating human resources-related activities for the investigator and HHMI lab members, including work authorization issues for foreign national hires;  and
  • Assisting investigators with management of their HHMI budgets. 

The Science Operations office is usually the best initial contact at HHMI for host institution personnel on any matter having to do with the operations of HHMI laboratories at that host. The office also can refer host institution personnel to others within HHMI as needed, such as the HHMI scientific officer, HHMI attorney or contracts counsel assigned to the site.

The Collaboration Agreement

Executed prior to the appointment of the first HHMI investigator at a host institution and updated periodically, the collaboration agreement between HHMI and the host institution documents how HHMI and the host institution conduct their collaborative research efforts.  The collaboration agreement addresses issues such as:

  • an investigator’s dual status;
  • the assignment of lab space to investigators and HHMI’s payment of occupancy fees; and
  • the ownership and commercialization of intellectual property arising in HHMI labs at the host.

Investigator’s Dual Status

While investigators remain physically based at the host institution and continue to serve as faculty members (or the equivalent if the host is not a university and does not use the term “faculty”), investigators are HHMI employees. HHMI laboratories typically include a mix of staff employed by HHMI and staff employed by or otherwise affiliated with the host institution. It is expected that HHMI investigators and their HHMI staff will have the same access to host institution resources, such as libraries, computers, dining, parking, and recreational privileges, as host institution faculty and staff.

Investigator Salary and Benefits

As HHMI employees, investigators receive their salary and benefits from HHMI and not the host institution. In the fall of 2018, HHMI moved to a new approach of setting investigator compensation consistently across host institutions and geographic locations using HHMI’s newly-developed laboratory head salary scale. The design of HHMI’s salary scale reflects various factors, such as experience, degrees, and geographic region. One of HHMI’s goals in moving to a scale was to ensure that HHMI investigators are well positioned to spend at least 75% of their professional effort in the active conduct of scientific research, as required by HHMI policy. For more information about the scale, please review HHMI’s FAQs for Host Institutions on Investigator Salaries.

Investigator Administrative Service to Host and Salary Supplementation

Subject to HHMI's approval, an investigator may be paid by his or her host institution for administrative service: for example, as a department chair or as head of a division, institute, or core facility within the host or for similar administrative service to the host. Time spent on such administrative service must fit within the 25% of professional time investigators can spend on non-research professional activities. We expect investigators to take this limit seriously and to be realistic in considering how much of their time non-research professional activities will require. For more information, please review HHMI's Investigator Administrative Service to Host and Salary Supplementation Policy.

Non-Renewal of Investigator Appointments

Under HHMI’s standard procedures, an investigator with an unsuccessful HHMI scientific review will begin a phase-out period of approximately two years after that review before his or her HHMI appointment ends.  During the phase-out period, the investigator remains an HHMI employee with full salary and benefits, and HHMI continues to provide the investigator with an operating budget for his or her research and make payments to the host institution under the collaboration agreement in place between HHMI and the host institution (e.g., occupancy fees for the investigator’s space).

To provide more flexibility for investigators during their transition from HHMI funding following an unsuccessful review, effective June 1, 2014, HHMI will consider investigator requests to make a gift to the host institution at the end of a phase-out period of up to $500,000 of unspent HHMI research budget funds. An investigator must have at least $100,000 of unspent funds to be able to request such a gift. HHMI is also offering a new option for phase-out period support, in which the investigator may choose to have his or her HHMI appointment terminate a year earlier than scheduled, and be the beneficiary of a gift from HHMI to the investigator’s host institution of the approximate equivalent of the final year of HHMI salary and research support. Under this early termination option, HHMI will also make a separate unrestricted gift to the host institution in the amount of occupancy fees that HHMI would have expected to pay for the investigator’s space during the final 12 months of the phase-out. Under either phase-out scenario, the host institution must be willing to accept the HHMI gift funding without charging indirect costs or administrative fees, in order for the gifts to be made. 

Please see the new policy on Investigator Phase-out and Gift Options for more information.  

Research-Related Questions?

HHMI’s research policies can be a useful resource when questions arise. Topics specifically addressed by the posted research policies include:

Host institution personnel can contact the OGC attorney assigned to their institution with questions about MTAs covering transfers of materials to HHMI laboratories at the site and the HHMI site attorney assigned to their institution with questions about any other types of agreements for HHMI laboratories or with general questions about HHMI’s research policies.

Host Institution Press Releases About Investigators and Their Research

Host institutions should coordinate external communications concerning investigators and their lab employees with HHMI. This includes external communications related to an investigator’s HHMI appointment; the publication of research findings; technology developed in an investigator’s laboratory; and prizes, awards, and honors received by an Investigator or an HHMI employee in an investigator’s laboratory.

Direct questions about press releases and other communications to [email protected].

Use of HHMI Name and Logo

HHMI has a reputation for excellence in conducting independent biomedical research and supporting innovative science education. The HHMI name is a valuable asset that must be protected. Therefore, HHMI is cautious about any use of its name by commercial entities. 

The HHMI signature is the primary expression of HHMI’s identity. The two elements of the HHMI signature are the logo “HHMI” with the logotype “Howard Hughes Medical Institute” underneath.

The HHMI signature and its elements should never be redrawn or modified unless prior approval has been obtained from HHMI. Proper usage of the HHMI Logo is covered on the HHMI Logo & Guidelines page

Intellectual Property

All investigators, as well as lab personnel who become HHMI employees, generally are required to assign to HHMI any intellectual property that arises from their research. In turn, in accordance with the terms of the collaboration agreement between HHMI and the host institution, HHMI assigns its rights to the host institution, subject to a research use license retained by HHMI. The host institution typically then takes the lead in patenting or licensing that intellectual property in accordance with the terms of its collaboration agreement with HHMI and subject to compliance with HHMI’s policies. Relevant policies include, for example, HHMI’s policies requiring sharing of research tools and other publication-related materials, data, and software. A copy of HHMI’s Intellectual Property Guide for Hosts is a useful resource for intellectual property issues.

By comparison, HHMI’s own Janelia Research Campus is the only location at which HHMI itself has an active patenting and licensing program. Consistent with HHMI’s goal of making published research tools and other materials broadly available, Janelia actively shares new software and tools developed as a result of research there. Janelia’s Innovation Management includes a current list of software, tools, and innovations available for licensing or optioning.