Keeping ideology and bureaucracy out of science


NB. Please note that if you are outside North America, the embargo for LANCET press material is 0001 hours UK Time 13 February 2004.

The current debate surrounding the ethics and accountability of scientific research is discussed in this week's editorial, with concern that well-meaning monitoring processes implemented in the wake of scandals like alderhay in the UK may have "the potential to delay, impede, or halt research."

A recent call for the investigation of NIH-funded "studies of bizarre sex practices" by a US conservative group is highlighted, as is the European Union Clinical Trials Directive with its goal to protect people participating in clinical trials.

The editorial concludes: "All of these developments arose out of genuine concerns, and each has some merit: taxpayers deserve transparency and clarity about the research they are paying for, and patients and research volunteers are unquestionably entitled to be fully informed and to control what is done with their own bodies. But over-regulation and ideological intrusion into science, peer review, and public health is in no one's best interests. A climate of fear and intimidation or one of limitless bureaucracy is bad for researchers, bad for citizens, and ultimately harms the progress of medicine and science. These concerns must be taken into consideration as legislation is amended."

"In view of current threats to global public health, especially emerging infectious diseases, which require rapid, cutting-edge research, innovative solutions, and streamlined methods to implement these solutions, fostering strong and sustainable research cultures is now more critical than ever. That is why efforts to focus, shape, and fund responsible research must not harm scientists-or the public, who are the reason for that research in the first place."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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