NIH Environmental Health Chief Steps Aside

20 August 2007 (All day)


NIEHS's David Schwartz says he is committed to a comprehensive review of his institute.

In an escalating controversy, David Schwartz, director of the National Institute of Health's (NIH's) environmental health institute, is stepping aside while NIH conducts a sweeping review of the $642-million-a-year institute.

Schwartz, a pulmonologist at Duke University, took the helm of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, in May 2005. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) has recently raised ethics questions about Schwartz's management practices, including his consulting work for law firms, his use of guest researchers from Duke, and cost overruns in his laboratory budget (Science, 6 July, p. 26). Lawmakers have also questioned Schwartz's management of NIEHS's journal and the use of an outside contractor by the institute's National Toxicology Program. A memo that NIH Director Elias Zerhouni e-mailed today to the directors of NIH's 27 institutes and centers cites congressional concerns and says that Schwartz "has agreed to step aside" during a review of "specific issues raised to date" and topics such as governance, grants and contracts, financial management, and NIEHS's ethics program.

Schwartz sent an e-mail to staff that called the move "personally painful" but said he is "committed to a full and comprehensive review" of NIEHS's policies. Deputy director Samuel Wilson will serve as acting director, and Schwartz will continue as chief of his own lab at another NIH institute. Zerhouni expects the review to take several months.

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