A review panel Monday recommended higher salaries and greater independence for top scientists at the National Institutes of Health, the government's chief research arm in the fight against AIDS, cancer and other major diseases.

The committee of the National Academy of Sciences also recommended against turning NIH into an independent agency or farming its projects out to private companies.The report said research at NIH makes "invaluable contributions to our knowledge and understanding of basic biological process and their dysfunction in disease," but that this excellence is threatened unless salary changes are made.

The report was prompted by a recommendation from the Reagan administration's Office of Management and Budget that NIH research be taken from the government and turned over to private companies.