Small Research Institutes Trade Freedom for Survival

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Kevin Ma for The Chronicle

Jonathan Gitlin, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole: “Independent 
research institutes are great, but in some ways they are also a thing of the past.”

A year ago, the faculty governing board of the 126-year-old Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole, Mass., on the verge of the busy summer research season on Cape Cod, gathered for an emergency meeting with a terminal purpose: to vote itself out of existence.

The independent lab, reliant on diminishing federal research grants, had been in dire financial straits for years. To save itself, its leaders proposed surrendering its autonomy to the University of Chicago—adding some