Four years ago, while on the staff of Harvard Medical School, Penn Ophthalmology Professor Evan Dreyer falsified data in a grant application to the National Institutes of Health. For that blatant act of misconduct, Dreyer agreed to a 10-year ban on federal research funding earlier this month, but that penalty is not sufficient. He should also lose his job at Penn. As the recent controversy in the University's beleaguered Institute for Human Gene Therapy demonstrates, a researcher's inclination to play fast and loose with protocol can have grave consequences. Penn needs to have a zero-tolerance policy on flagrant, willful research misconduct, and on that basis, Dreyer must go. We are further troubled by the fact that when Dreyer was hired by Penn in 1997, he was already the subject of a federal investigation over his NIH funding request. Health System spokeswoman Rebecca Harmon said that the University was unaware of the charges at the time. This, however, evidences the same kind of lax institutional oversight that we witnessed in the IHGT affair. Just as the Medical School's Institutional Review Board fail to readily observe the misconduct in Director James M. Wilson's gene therapy trials, so too did someone drop the ball by not thoroughly vetting a potential addition to the faculty. Researchers, especially in the field of medicine, hold the lives of patients in their hands, and no violation of this public trust can be condoned.Comments powered by Disqus
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