Winter 2009: Of Note

Conflict of Interest Policies Receive Increased Focus

A series of actions this fall reflected the University’s heightened attention to questions and issues surrounding potential conflicts of interest (COI) by faculty researchers. Emory’s actions came as Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) raised questions about pharmaceutical company payments to academic psychiatrists here and at Harvard, Stanford, and others.

In October, Emory established the first central university office dedicated to COI administration and enforcement. Policies previously were administered by each school. Sponsored research at Emory has grown dramatically over the past decade, now amounting to more than $400 million per year.

Shortly thereafter, President Wagner announced the formation of a president’s advisory commission on research integrity and management of professional conflicts. Headed by new Center for Ethics director and nationally known bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe, the commission is charged with studying Emory’s practices and culture with regard to outside activities and commitments by staff and faculty.

In December, the University announced that Charles Nemeroff, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, would step down permanently as departmental chair and would be subject to a series of restrictions on his outside commitments, including not being carried on any National Institutes of Health grants by Emory for two years.

The University said that while Nemeroff had failed to disclose outside income that he should have reported to Emory, there was no evidence that his receipt of more than $800,000 in speaking fees from GlaxoSmithKline had biased his scientific research or affected clinical care. Nemeroff will remain in the department as a professor and clinician.

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