In 2008, a Senate investigation found that Nemeroff failed to report at least $1.2 million of more than $2.4 million that he had received for consulting for drug companies. NIH suspended one of Nemeroff's grants, and in December 2008, Emory announced that it would not allow Nemeroff to apply for NIH grants for 2 years.
As I was just saying, this is the scope of the real problem. Changing the reporting rules from $10K per year to $5K per year does absolutely nothing about a guy who fails to report some or all of his outside activity.
Still, a 2 year suspension sounds like something, doesn't it?
Nemeroff then applied for a job at the University of Miami's medical school. According to e-mails that The Chronicle obtained, the school's dean, Pascal Goldschimidt, e-mailed Insel in July 2009 to ask for a "confidential opinion" regarding Nemeroff. Insel replied that he could not provide a written recommendation but could talk to Goldschmidt informally by phone, which he apparently did, according to the e-mails. (Goldschimdt told The Chronicle he wanted to be sure Nemeroff could receive NIH grants and that Insel assured him "that Charlie was absolutely in fine standing.") At the time, Insel co-chaired a new NIH committee to revise federal COI regulations; NIH proposed changes in those rules last month.
Or not. Sigh.
The Chronicle notes that Insel has been a stanch supporter of Nemeroff:
The administrator, Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, also encouraged the researcher, Charles B. Nemeroff, to apply for new NIH grants, even though Emory had agreed on its own to restrict Dr. Nemeroff from NIH grant eligibility for two years. The NIH also allowed Dr. Nemeroff uninterrupted eligibility to serve on NIH advisory panels that help decide who receives NIH grant money.
Dr. Insel "confirmed to me that Charlie was absolutely in fine standing" with the NIH, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, dean of the University of Miami's medical school, said of a July 2009 phone call he made to Dr. Insel just before hiring Dr. Nemeroff.
Why such strong support for a guy who has been investigated by Congressional committee, found to have violated rules by under-reporting and is a multi-time loser on the COI / disclosure / scientific ethics front by now?
Dr. Nemeroff began offering help to the now-director of the NIMH in 1994, when Dr. Insel was facing the nonrenewal of his research job at the NIH, Mr. Carroll said, bringing him to Emory to serve as a professor of psychiatry and director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center. Dr. Nemeroff also led a lobbying effort that helped ensure Dr. Insel's appointment in 2002 as NIMH director, Mr. Carroll said.
ScienceInsider bit Chronicle* then goes on to quote NIH spokesdude John Burklow with some of the usual weasel wording about how NIH rules don't prevent Insel from giving a recommendation, blah, blah, blah.
It's about optics, NIH. This doesn't look good. The goal here is not to have some kind of face saving wink-wink-nudge-nudge that then let's ne'erdo-wells get back to their same old work.
You don't do this in cases of scientific fraud, right? I mean why can't these poor chaps who get busted for faking data have a sentence that only applies at their current institution? Why can't they have Directors of an NIH Institute land them a new job and go right back to advising the NIH in formal capacity and being awarded new grants?
F+ to Insel and F- to the NIH for allowing this to happen.
Updated: You can't make this stuff up.
*ScienceInsider was just quoting from the Chronicle article.
N.b.: My usual disclaimer applies. I may have in the past have held, currently hold or be actively seeking research support from the NIMH. Cleaning house on this kind of stuff is therefore of actual or potential direct interest to my research program and career. I encourage you to read my comments with that in mind.