WASHINGTON—Last month, the Public Health Service issued regulations on how federal grantees should respond to allegations of scientific misconduct. The new rules, which take effect November 8, require universities and other institutions to certify that they will follow specific procedures and meet certain timetables in investigating and reporting allegations of misconduct involving their employees.

By putting the burden on the institution, the government is abiding by the wishes of the scientific community to be given the chance to police itself. Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health are given a major—albeit supporting—role in overseeing their conduct. But several recent cases have cast doubt on whether such a two-step approach is adequate to safeguard public health and ensure that scientists don’t break the law. Among those cases is an unpublicized investigation by NIH into allegations that federal scientists received excessive fees for presenting testimony on a controversial public health issue....

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