Corruption Uncovered by the National Institutes of Health

54 researchers have either been fired or have resigned because of an ongoing investigation made by the National Institutes of Health into the failure of NIH guarantees to make financial ties to foreign governments public. In 93% of the cases, the unknown funding originated from a Chinese institution.

These new numbers come from Michael Lauer, NIH’s leader of extramural research. Previously, Lauer had provided some information on the scope of the investigation of NIH, targeting 189 scientists at 87 different institutions. Today, his presentation to a senior advisory panel, however, offered the most detailed breakout of an effort that NIH launched in August 20. That effort roiled the entire US biomedical community, resulting in criminal charges against some of the most prominent researchers out there, such as Charles Lieber, the chair of Harvard University’s department of chemical biology and chemistry.

Francis Collins, the NIH Director, has explained that the data found is sobering and that they were not hoping to have to do this. In most cases, Lauer said that the person being investigated is an Asian man in his 50s. About three-quarters of those placed under investigation had active NIH grants, nearly half of them having at least 2 grants. The 285 active plants are worth a total of 164 million.

Lauer also presented some information about the nature of the violations uncovered by the NIH. About 70% of the scientists had failed to tell the NIH that they got a foreign grant, 54% even failing to disclose that they were actively participating in a foreign talent program. On the other hand, about 9% of the researchers involved were hiding ties with a foreign company, while about 4% had a foreign patent they did not mention. About 5% of the cases even involved a violation of the National Institute of Health’s peer-review system.

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