Ex-NIEHS director speaks out

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) director David Schwartz, who officially linkurl:resigned;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54296/ from the agency last Friday, told __The Scientist__ that NIEHS "could do better" and will "be more successful" under new leadership. Schwartz also said that the environmental health community misunderstood his goals as director of NIEHS. "There was a belief that I was creating a clinical institute," he said, "when I had no intentio

By | February 11, 2008

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) director David Schwartz, who officially linkurl:resigned;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54296/ from the agency last Friday, told __The Scientist__ that NIEHS "could do better" and will "be more successful" under new leadership. Schwartz also said that the environmental health community misunderstood his goals as director of NIEHS. "There was a belief that I was creating a clinical institute," he said, "when I had no intention of creating a clinical institute." Schwartz was criticized by legislators, and scientists both inside and outside NIEHS for steering the agency away from its traditional focus on research into the prevention of environmentally mediated disease and towards more clinical aspects of these diseases. "We wanted to attract more physician/scientists to the institute," Schwartz said. "For some reason, that was misinterpreted as funding only physician/scientists." "I was also promoting the idea that environmental science had a unique opportunity to use exposures to uniquely understand the etiology, mechanisms, and factors that are associated with the progression of disease," Schwartz continued. Schwartz also defended his decision in 2005 to suggest privatizing NIEHS's flagship journal, __Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP)__, a proposition that raised the ire of the environmental health community. He said that exploring privatization was just part of his institute-wide search for ways to trim the institute's budget. "__Environmental Health Perspectives__ was one of our expenditures that I thought was important to look at carefully," Schwartz said. Schwartz eventually wrote against privatizing __EHP__ in an linkurl:editorial;http://www.ehponline.org/docs/2006/114-8/director.html that was published in the journal's August 2006 issue. In response to linkurl:allegations;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53502/ of misconduct - for example, trading on his status as NIEHS director by testifying as an expert witness in asbestos court cases and diverting resources away from NIEHS researchers to fund his own lab - Schwartz said that any rule breaking he did was out of ignorance. "I thought I was acting within the bounds of what I had received permission to do," he said. "If there were things I did that exceeded those bounds, it was because I didn't understand that or people around me didn't understand that." Schwartz also said that he was stung when almost 100 NIEHS researchers held a linkurl:secret ballot;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53502/ to express their opposition to his leadership and their view that Schwartz had damaged morale at the institute. "Obviously, I was personally disappointed," he said. When asked if he had any regrets concerning his turbulent tenure as NIEHS director, Schwartz said: "Of course I would have done things differently, but hindsight is always 20/20." "I believed, and I still believe, I had the best intentions for the institute in terms of the efforts I put into my position and the leadership I provided." CORRECTION (Feb. 12, 2007): When originally posted, this article contained a misspelling in one of David Schwartz's quotes. __The Scientist__ regrets the error.

Comments

Avatar of: Sergio Stagnaro

Sergio Stagnaro

Posts: 59

February 13, 2008

It seems really strange that we are living Information Era at her Zenith, but we are hindered to communicate each others, discussing in a free way.
Avatar of: null null

null null

Posts: 11

February 13, 2008

Scientists are no better when it comes to avoiding politics and power conflicts within their own community. In fact, unlike politicians who are more experienced and better at reaching compromises, scientists break down in cooperative processes, more often not, due to their overblown egos and thin skins. Many of them, after all, pursue and stay in science mainly for the pursuit of their personal glories and rewards (dreaming of Nobel Prize) - not for mainly pursuing scientific facts, as meant to be.

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