In response to the ongoing controversy over financial conflicts of interest university and med schools researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Project On Government Oversight is urging NIH director Francis Collins to disclose financial arrangements of its researchers in a public database.
The issue is also being pursued by US Senator Chuck Grassley, who is probing researchers who accept funding from the NIH and pharma, as well as instances where their universities have failed to monitor or report payments. According to current NIH regulations, payments above $10,000 should be reported (see background here). In a March 11 letter, POGO noted that financial arrangements are currently reported confidentially to a researcher's institution, but "the confidentiality of the reports has opened the door to abuses involving obvious conflicts of interest...The lack of public disclosure – and the large amounts of money at stake – almost guarantees that some grantees will cheat and that some of them will get away with it."
In response to a proposed NIH rule concerning financial disclose, POGO notes few comments support the effort, but the watchdog group also pointed out that Collins told the New England Journal of Medicine last fall that "I personally am in favor of the idea that sunshine is the best disinfectant. The idea of having a public database where all investigators disclose what kinds of financial arrangement they have with outside organization is a good thing."