A while ago I blogged approvingly about a paper by Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institutes of Mental Health: http://brodyhooked.blogspot.com/2010/03/nimh-director-on-industry-influence.html. I noted in that post that Dr. Bernard Carroll had a more jaundiced view than I did, based in part in his psychiatrist's-insider's knowledge of the longstanding relationship between Dr. Insel and the disgraced chair of psychiatry at Emory, Dr. Charles Nemeroff, who shortly thereafter became undisgraced enough to be snapped up as the new chair at Miami. (Carroll's views were to be found at http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2010/03/dr-pangloss-as-nih-institute-director.html.)
Recent events seem to demonstrate that Dr. Carroll was right all along. I was about to post several sources in this past week's debacle at NIMH, but Dr. Carroll has saved me the trouble by masterfully pulling the threads of the story together while also identifying exactly the key issues at stake in this mess-- so save time and just read his post, http://hcrenewal.blogspot.com/2010/06/public-trust-at-nimh.html, which also includes links to most of the critical background documents.
Most of us don't get it that in theory, no professor ever gets a grant from NIH; a university gets the grant. So when the Emory Nemeroff was banned for two years from getting any NIH or NIMH grants due to his blatant nondisclosure of industry funding, that was not really Nemeroff that was being punished, it was Emory; and so technically the Miami Nemeroff is blameless as the proverbial newborn babe and can start taking home NIH grants by the dozen any day. Admittedly that's how the rules were written and so Insel as NIMH director cannot change those rules. And so, again by the letter of the law, Insel did no wrong when he privately advised the Dean at Miami that Nemeroff posed no liability to him whatever as a new hire, in terms of NIH funding potential.
Dr. Carroll then goes on to identify the really most egregious bit of behavior-- the fact that Insel then proceeded to appoint Nemeroff to two NIMH study sections. That was purely a matter of discretion and there was no requirement in any book of rules to make such appointments. The fact that he made them seems to demonstrate beyond a doubt that Insel does not get what's wrong, and that his real priority is to go to bat for his good ol' pal Nemeroff whom it now seems he believes was unfairly punished. In the process, if the integrity of academic psychiatry and of the NIMH goes into the toilet, then so be it, appears to be his motto. Indeed a sorry state for the director of an NIH institute, and an indicator that whatever Insel wrote about in his JAMA article, he has no clue what it means.