For scientists, confronting the unknown is a way of life. The idea of risk—that an experiment might not yield expected results or that a line of reasoning might be wrong—is not entirely negative. On the contrary, it is inherent to the process of discovery, and we often learn more from our mistakes than from anticipated results. Transformative breakthroughs often come from the boldest thinking—that which challenges conventional wisdom or dares to apply insights from one field to another. And of course, serendipity is always an exciting possibility.
At the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, we embrace creative thinking and unconventional approaches because we believe that for science to achieve its full potential, there must be a certain tolerance for failure.
At the Janelia Farm Research Campus and in labs around the world, our scientists frequently cross the frontiers of biomedical research because they are free to follow their instincts and ask bold questions that may take years to solve. Similarly, the Institute has refocused its science education awards on desired outcomes rather than specific tactics. Our grantees are now free to tailor education programs to the environments they know best and to try novel approaches. And, recognizing that the impact of science can be extended if it is communicated freely and articulated clearly, we are embarking on ambitious new collaborations in scientific publishing, filmmaking, and digital media.
We are comfortable with uncertainty and exploring new territory but equally committed to critically evaluating our work. This ethos, coupled with patient, long-term investments in talented individuals, is the HHMI way.
Robert Tjian, President