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Grassley to NIH: Crack the Whip

20 November 2008 2:14 pm
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Expect no letup in the investigation of U.S. biomedical researchers who violate conflict-of-interest regulations. So says Senator Chuck Grassley (R–IA), who’s been hammering scientists who receive pay from drug companies but fail to comply with U.S. rules requiring them to report such outside income. In a conversation on 19 November, Grassley told Science that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) needs to be more aggressive about getting the universities and researchers it funds to disclose consulting income. The Iowa lawmaker is concerned that NIH's plan to revise the reporting rules is an excuse for inaction. That could take a couple of years, Grassley says. "They can change [the rules] if they want to, but ... they've got plenty of leverage with just yanking back grants," he says.

One institution has already suffered that fate—Emory University in Atlanta, which had an NIH grant suspended after Grassley’s inquiry identified a psychiatry department chair who had allegedly not properly reported some income. Grassley staffers say that some universities—such as Stanford in Palo Alto, California—have told investigators that they have seen no significant lapses. But a Harvard University inquiry is “ongoing,” Senate aides say—and likely to make news again.