The University Record, February 18, 1998

National Conference on 'Managing Research Integrity': Technology means arrival of new concerns in scientific integrity

Panelists Lawrence Rhoades (at podium), Edward Goldman (seated, from left), Howard Rush, Elaine Brock and Katharine Phillips discussed issues of research integrity that have become more urgent with the increased use of technology in scientific and medical research. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Five panelists discussed what's on the horizon in research integrity during "Emerging Issues," at the two-day conference "Managing Integrity in Research."

Lawrence Rhoades, director of the Division of Policy and Education at the Office of Research Integrity, Public Health Service, spoke on scientific misconduct. He listed issues of concern that will be looming ahead in scientific research of the future: liability, prevention, promoting integrity, expanding the knowledge base, detecting misconduct, reporting misconduct and rehabilitation.

Rhoades said that in the past, most of the violations in scientific research have come to light only after they have been reported by someone.

"We have been, in the past, almost totally reliant on whistleblowers to provide information about scientific misconduct," he said, noting that instead, institutions should provide an environment that discourages misconduct, looks for tools to prevent it, actively promotes integrity in research and enforces that integrity.

Edward B. Goldman, attorney for the U-M Health System, talked about the use of human subjects and institutional review boards, medical research in Third World countries and the issue of informed consent.

Explaining some of the barriers to research in specific medical areas, Goldman said there is a need to find a way for medical researchers to test procedures and medications in situations where it is impossible to get informed consent from a patient.

"The basis for the current regulations was the reaction to past abuses," Goldman said, "studies where consent was not obtained from patients.

"The problem with that is there is some research where you cannot enroll subjects" such as in the case of closed head injuries or heart attack patients, he noted. He said a method for waiving consent for research procedures should be allowed under conditions in which there is no known available treatment, the patient has a life-threatening condition and could possibly benefit directly from the procedure, animal studies have yielded good results and surrogate consent is available. However, he cautioned, mechanisms to prevent abuse of the policy would be needed.

Howard Rush, associate professor of laboratory animal medicine and assistant director of the Unit for Laboratory Animal Research, talked about the two areas of concern in using animals for research.

"Our responsibility to the animals we use in research is to be sure that there is humane care and use, and also to act as advocates for the animals," he said. Those responsibilities include reducing pain or suffering, reducing the number of animals used and replacing animal use with other methods when they are available.

Elaine Brock, senior project representative at the Division of Research Development and Administration, gave her personal view from "down in the trenches." Brock and her colleagues deal with implementation of research integrity guidelines and conflict of interest issues.

"There is a great drive in institutions toward promoting industrial sponsorship of research and toward technology transfer as well as the educational value of research for learning institutions," Brock said. "My personal view is that somewhere there is a line that we can't cross." Finding that line, she said, is a tough job.

Katharina Phillips, vice president of the Council of Governmental Relations, talked about openness and collegiality in the research fields.