The US Office of Government Ethics (OGE) wants the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enact far more restrictive conflict-of-interest regulations on outside consulting activities than those proposed by NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni and a special "blue ribbon" panel of experts. But a leading biomedical and life sciences organization calls OGE's recommendations "disturbing" and "punitive."

Prohibiting NIH intramural scientists from consulting and interacting with colleagues "would certainly drive very talented people out of government service," said Paul W. Kincade, president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). "It's disturbing. It looks to me as though the Office of Government Ethics has gone from the reasonable to the punitive," he told The Scientist.

The OGE audits and approves procedures used by executive branch agencies to ensure employees abide by federal ethics laws and regulations. An OGE review of NIH's ethics programs, conducted from January through...

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