In 2008, Emory University ruled that Charles Nemeroff, a professor of psychiatry, was ineligible to apply for NIH grants for two years. Dr. Nemeroff had failed to disclose over $1 million in payments from pharmaceutical companies whose products he promoted in academic journals.
Now, a Chronicle of Higher Education investigation has revealed that Dr. Nemeroff ducked punishment by applying for a jot at the University of Miami Medical Center. One of his recommenders was none other than the National Institute of Mental Health director who wrote the ethics rule that Nemeroff violated. While Nemeroff was accepting drug company donations, he was also cultivating friends at the NIH, who returned his favors.
Revealing conflicts of interest is not just some nicety that applies to researchers with little clout. It is integral to the research process itself. Unsurprisingly, Nemeroff promoted drugs in which he had a financial stake, consistently downplaying their serious side effects. Penalties should follow a researcher from institution to institution, pointing to the need for better oversight at the NIH.