If you're a medical researcher or administrator, you don't want to receive an e-mail from Paul Thacker. He was the key staffer behind a series of investigations since 2007 by Senator Chuck Grassley (R–IA), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. His work focused on drug company payments to a psychiatrist at the University of Cincinnati, another at Stanford University, and Charles Nemeroff, then with Emory University—causing much chaos and agitation among researchers—and changes in numerous academic conflict-of-interest policies. In some people's eyes, his work led to valuable reforms, whereas others said Grassley, and the tightening of the rules he inspired, went too far . Either way, there was no question Thacker, a former journalist, made an impact using his dogged investigative skills combined with the power that Grassley imbued in him.
Now, due to Republican term limits on committee chairmanships, Grassley will be leaving Finance, probably moving to the Judiciary committee, so Thacker has a new job. He'll be an investigator for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C., federal watchdog, where he'll focus on health care. Thacker will also target environmental topics such as the Obama Administration's response to the oil spill, he tells ScienceInsider.