Smith-Kettlewell Institute

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The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco was founded in 1959 by Arthur Jampolsky, and became internationally known for the work of its scientists in vision and oculomotility. In the early 1990s, senior faculty considered the Institute's needs in relation to the scientific environment, and developed a successful recruitment program, which seeded programs in retinal physiology, cortical physiology, and computational vision.

Founder Jampolsky, however, decided that the institute had deviated from its founding principles, and in March 2000 announced a policy of “rebalancing”. Open recruitment was dismantled, the institute’s newly constructed physiology facility was shuttered, and personnel, facilities, grant management and IT offices were closed, with functionality truncated or outsourced. Most of the institute’s scientists left, or were pushed out. From 2008 to 2012, NIH funding of S-K projects dropped by 65% (data from projectreporter.nih.gov), and with programming below required levels, NIH Training (supporting students) and Core (supporting shared facilities) grants were lost. This period of funding and activity collapse was associated with a dramatic increase in the annual salary of the Executive Director of this publicly funded non-profit institution (from $152,591 to $367,492; data from 990-PF filings).


A technology-oriented Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) survives. The current executive director of Smith-Kettlewell is John Brabyn.

Major Work:

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