A new policy granting a single high-ranking political staffer the power to vet the US Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) international scientific appointments has sparked condemnation from scientists. Under the new policy, the director of the Office of Global Health Affairs will determine, in consultation with agency officials, which scientists will be allowed to participate in expert panels of the World Health Organization (WHO).

An HHS spokesman predicted that the new practice will boost the accountability of government scientists accustomed to generous travel policies and help ensure that appointments are based on merit and not on collegial relationships. "We think accountability is important," spokesman Bill Pierce told The Scientist Tuesday (June 29). "We want to make sure that WHO invites the very best scientists we have."

But some scientists bridled at the centralization of these appointments and worried that it could result in the appearance of tainted research....

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