Anderson, Christopher. "The Aftermath of the Gallo Case," Science 263 (7 January 1994), pp.

 

Anderson, Christopher. "The Aftermath of the Gallo Case," Science 263 (7 January 1994), pp.
20-22.

The Office of Research Integrity recently lost on appeal its case against Mikulas Popovic and
dropped its case against Robert C. Gallo when it was realized that the appeals body, made up of
lawyers, was going to apply rigorous legal standards of what constitutes fraud. Similarly, cases
against Margit Hamost and Rameshwar Sharma were abandoned or resulted in acquittal. What
does all this mean for continuing investigations of scientific misconduct? This article suggests:
"An appeals board trounced the federal misconduct office in two recent cases and said it had
misinterpreted its own definition of misconduct; in future, the office will be more selective in the
cases it takes on." (p. 20)

Patricia Woolf is quoted as saying, "If I were just an observer, I'd think the scientific misconduct
process is in great disarray." Scientists, university administrators and lawyers assess the cases
similarly: "To make a charge of scientific misconduct stick, ORI will have to meeting higher
standards of proof than it has applied in the past." (p. 20)

There seems to be an emerging two-tiered system for handling misconduct. "Academic
institutions will continue to be primarily responsible for investigating such alleged misdeeds as
improper claims of authorship or uncollegial behavior. ORI will intercede only in serious cases
that may result in federal sanctions..." (p. 20)

When ORI was established in 1989, the NIH had in mind that scientists would judge the behavior
of other scientists. What has happened is that in the name of due process and constitutional
rights, various accused scientists fought the ORI in court, brought in high-powered lawyers, and
argued successfully that informal science was not competent to judge them. Arguing in courts,
they won! Lawyers blew the scientists away.

In the case of Popovic and Gallo, they had been under investigation for 4 years. The ORI found
the pair guilty of misconduct but the appeals board ruled that ORI was in the wrong for pursuing
the cases for so long with so little evidence. Stunned, ORI dropped the parallel case against
Gallo. It is not of small concern that ORI was itself under extraordinary pressure to come to some
conclusion in these cases.

The single most important conclusion reached by the appeals board is that ORI must prove
intent! ORI had operated "...on the assumption that it is enough to prove that the statement was
false and the researcher ‘should have know' that was the case..." However, the appeals board
says no.

"In the wake of its embarrassing defeats and its conflict with the appeals board, ORI plans to
propose (through a Federal Register notice, which solicits public comment) modification to the
federal misconduct regulations. In particular, it intends to propose adding the ‘should have
known' clause to the definition of misconduct. It also wants to make ‘materiality' an explicit
factor in determining sanctions, but not in the funding of misconduct itself, and it hopes to clarify
what evidence can be admitted in order to demonstrate a ‘pattern of behavior.' Finally, it hopes to
place the burden of proof on an accused scientist to demonstrate that a false statement was an
honest error. One senior HHS official says, however, that ORI has little support within the
department for most of these proposed changes.

"The next round of debate over misconduct may be mediated by a congressionally mandated
commission outside experts that ORI is assembling. In the meantime, ORI is likely to be much
more selective in choosing which cases it will take up once a university has completed its
investigation. Some researchers believe that faculty senates, traditionally conservative, may be
reluctant to impose institutional standards more sweeping than those used by the federal
government..."
Stone, Richard. "Congress to Lose Key Science Staffer," Science 263 (7 January 1994), p. 19.

This is a brief announcement that House staffer Richard Marlow, is stepping down. He has been
for many years the clerk of the House appropriattions subcommittee that oversees the National
Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As such, he has enormous clout on appropriations and
I include this reference because of its estimate of how much money is channeled through the
House subcommittee. Marlow is said to have handled $82 billion worth of programs. That is a
fair estimate of what the federal government spends on R&D.

Marlow is to coordinate the telescope projects being run by the Association of Universities for
Research in Astronomy Inc., (AURA).