October 30, 2006
NIH scientists seeking new work in wake of tougher disclosure rules
Nearly 40% of scientists researching diseases and cures at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are considering new jobs to escape strict ethics rules, a recent survey said. The NIH implemented its tightened rules last year after learning some of its scientists had private consulting deals with drug and biotech companies. Under the new guidelines, income from drugmakers is banned, with NIH placing disclosure requirements on employees’ financial holdings. The survey, commissioned by NIH, found 39% of the scientists conducting hands-on research at NIH – known as tenure or track scientists – were actively seeking new work or considering leaving because of the rules. Nearly 75% of NIH’s scientists said the new rules will hinder the government’s ability to attract and keep medical researchers, the survey said. In a letter to staff sent on Thursday, NIH director Elias Zerhouni said the survey “does suggest concerns about the impact of regulation on recruitment and retention.” Arthur Caplan, medical ethics chairman at the University of Pennsylvania told the Associated Press tighter rules are needed but “we still haven’t figured out exactly how to manage conflict of interest.” “The leaders of the NIH and in Congress have to think a bit harder about giving a tiny bit of breathing room so that NIH scientists are not sent to a monastery from which they can’t ever come out in the name of scientific integrity,” he said.