Baltimore, David. "Baltimore's Travels," Issues in Science and Technology 5 (Summer) 1989,

 

Baltimore, David. "Baltimore's Travels," Issues in Science and Technology 5 (Summer) 1989,
pp. 48-54.

Here is a first person account of the entire Baltimore affair. Elsewhere, he identifies this piece as
having been invited by the editor of the magazine (See, Baltimore, Issues, [Winter] 1989-1990)
as a personal account. It is that: a very selective interpretation of events which, after all, is to be
expected in a first person telling.

"My purpose in writing this article is to explain how a routine scientific dispute came to be
adjudicated in ... an unusual setting, how we chose to defend ourselves, and the scientific
political issues involved." (p. 48) Clearly, this is his side of the story.

For example, he considers O'Toole's contacting Tufts, where Imanishi-Kari was soon to be
appointed, a "most unusual" behavior. "Rather than discuss her objections with the authors, (the
usual procedure), she complained to an outside authority..." Tufts appointed Henry Wortis who
cleared the paper as involving matters of interpretation. Then she went to MIT and it appointed
Herman Eisen. He agreed that the conclusions of the paper were sound. "In these reviews,
completed by early summer 1986, all the issues were scientific. No one had accused anyone of
unethical or criminal behavior; O'Toole simply said she thought the conclusions of the paper
were not borne out by the data generated in the Imanishi-Kari laboratory. After the second
review, I thought the matter was closed." (p. 49)

However, Charles Maplethorpe brought in Walter Stewart and Ned Feder who turned the matter
into a cause celebre. They wrote an article, compiled files, distributed memoranda very
selectively. "...Steward and Feder utilized a classic propaganda technique - guilt by associated.
Because of their hostile acts, I asked the NIH to conduct a formal review..." (p. 50)

Stewart and Feder continued through 1987 and 1988 and Baltimore heard then that Congress
would be investigating and that terms like "fraud" were being bandied about. In the wake of the
congressional hearings of April 1988, we had to mount a defense. Until 1988, he suggests, he got
along with his own staff but, after that, he needed assistance. "We learned something about the
nature of such congressional investigations: The effort to resolve the dispute would not be
primarily a scientific or a legal one. Rather, it would be largely directed at press coverage. We
would not have a ‘day in court' in the sense of being informed in advance of any charges or
complains about our work. We would not have the opportunity to confront and question our
accusers, to present our own evidence or witnesses, or have any assurance that a record would be
developed and a decision based on it. There would likely be no final ruling from a congressional
panel; instead, we would be judged in the ‘court of public opinion.'

He identifies Peter Stockton, a policy analyst on Dingell's staff, as the major source of dispute. It
was to him that Feder and Stewart were assigned.

He reports that an NIH review of the paper found that there were errors but no fraud.

He was not informed that the Secret Service was conducting a study of the laboratory notebooks.
He considers that the findings of the Service meant nothing.

"In my defense, I tried to show how this sort of procedure could seriously harm the functioning
of the remarkably successful American biomedical enterprise. One of the reasons that biomedical
research has progressed so well in this country is that we have an efficient and effective system
based upon peer review...

"The peer-review system came under attack from the moment O'Toole took her accusations
outside the university-NIH review process and handed it over to Stewart and Feder and then on to
Stockton. These three unqualified outsiders tried to impose their own review upon the scientific
ones that had preceded, even suggesting that the ways in which scientists take their notes need to
be regulated to ‘auditing' such as their own more convenient. If the sad history of this
investigation demonstrates nothing else, it shows that uninformed or malinformed outsiders
cannot effectively review the progress of scientific activity." (p. 52)

He consider collaboration to be threatened by this investigation. Collaboration is essential to Big
Science an he sees the mistrust uncovered here to be a result.

He describes the policies he had implemented at Whitehead in the case of fraud and holds them
to be a model of proper procedure.