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NIH Struggling To Regulate Employees' Outside Income

Despite their efforts to curb conflicts of interest, officials lament that some abuses will persist among scientists who consult WASHINGTON--Stung by recent episodes of improper behavior by some of its own researchers, the National Institutes of Health has begun to keep a closer eye on those employees who consult for industry. But even clearly blatant violations of the rules on reporting and limiting how much scientists earn for outside work activities are nearly impossible to detect, say NIH

Jeffrey Mervis
Despite their efforts to curb conflicts of interest, officials lament that some abuses will persist among scientists who consult

WASHINGTON--Stung by recent episodes of improper behavior by some of its own researchers, the National Institutes of Health has begun to keep a closer eye on those employees who consult for industry. But even clearly blatant violations of the rules on reporting and limiting how much scientists earn for outside work activities are nearly impossible to detect, say NIH officials, if these employees choose to ignore existing agency policies.

"You can't catch people with the system we have in place. But that's not the point," says Philip Chen, NIH associate director for intramural affairs. "If someone wants to lie, cheat, and steal, the chances are we're not going to find out about it unless someone tells us."

Professional courtesy may be a major obstacle to tracking down and punishing National Institutes...

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