NIH report omits specific blame?

Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are saying the recent NIH report on mismanagement at the agency fails to pinpoint some root causes of the problems. The linkurl:report;http://finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2008/prg041508a.pdf pointed out several linkurl:problems;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54554/ at NIEHS, including a failure to consider conflicts of interest among NIEHS employees, a lack of documented justifications for out-of-rank-order ext

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Apr 16, 2008
Researchers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences are saying the recent NIH report on mismanagement at the agency fails to pinpoint some root causes of the problems. The linkurl:report;http://finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2008/prg041508a.pdf pointed out several linkurl:problems;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54554/ at NIEHS, including a failure to consider conflicts of interest among NIEHS employees, a lack of documented justifications for out-of-rank-order extramural grant awards, and tarnished morale at the agency. Ray Tennant, an NIEHS cancer researcher, said that report should have pointed more explicitly to specific problems with ex-NIEHS director linkurl:David Schwartz's;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54298/ leadership of the agency. "How did this report deal with the manifold problems that were brought about in the Schwartz era?" asked NIEHS cancer researcher Ray Tennant. "It didn't. It glossed over them." An NIEHS researcher who chose to remain anonymous said that not only Schwartz, but also NIH director Elias Zerhouni, who originally hired Schwartz, were the main causes of NIEHS's problems. According...
nt some root causes of the problems. The linkurl:report;http://finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2008/prg041508a.pdf pointed out several linkurl:problems;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54554/ at NIEHS, including a failure to consider conflicts of interest among NIEHS employees, a lack of documented justifications for out-of-rank-order extramural grant awards, and tarnished morale at the agency. Ray Tennant, an NIEHS cancer researcher, said that report should have pointed more explicitly to specific problems with ex-NIEHS director linkurl:David Schwartz's;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54298/ leadership of the agency. "How did this report deal with the manifold problems that were brought about in the Schwartz era?" asked NIEHS cancer researcher Ray Tennant. "It didn't. It glossed over them." An NIEHS researcher who chose to remain anonymous said that not only Schwartz, but also NIH director Elias Zerhouni, who originally hired Schwartz, were the main causes of NIEHS's problems. According to the researcher, Zerhouni tacitly endorsed Schwartz's miscues. "I think [the report] was accurate when it was done, but I think the blame belongs on two people: Schwartz and Zerhouni." The anonymous NIEHS researchers added that the report and the further linkurl:inquiry;http://finance.senate.gov/press/Gpress/2008/prg041508.pdf being demanded by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who wants Zerhouni to address specific issues relating to Schwartz's actions as NIEHS director, may lead to more problems for the institute and the NIH as a whole. "My major concern about the report and Grassley's aggressive follow-up is that it's going to hurt not just NIEHS, but NIH now," the researcher said. "It would go away if Zerhouni stepped down, frankly." An NIH spokesperson told me that the agency would be "completely responsive" to Grassley's requests regarding the report, which include providing comprehensive information on 45 extramural grants that NIEHS awarded to applications that were above the payline between FY 2005 and FY 2007. "We don't believe that the findings are representative of other institutes and centers," the spokesperson said, "but we certainly want to take every opportunity to learn and apply what we've learned when appropriate." Tennant said that morale at the agency had gotten better since Schwartz's linkurl:resignation;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54296/ earlier this year. The report gave the results of a satisfaction survey conducted among NIEHS employees last fall before Schwartz resigned. "I think there's been a definite change in morale over the past several months," he said. Since Schwartz's departure, NIEHS deputy director Samuel Wilson has been acting director.

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