1. Heyman, Patrick PhD, ARNP

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I sympathize with the anguish and anger that Ruth Malone expressed in being targeted because of her area of research ("Making the Hit List,"Letters, December 2003). But she should view the situation as an opportunity to educate Congress in the importance of her research. Moreover, I think that both Malone and AJN ("Is it Politics or is It Science?"News, November 2003) are mistaken in thinking that research funded by the government is not political. Public scrutiny of science is a good thing, especially in light of recent inconsistencies in research conduct and findings, such as the recent revelation of research fraud-involving invented data-in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. 1


We must keep in mind that most government research funding doesn't go toward research but rather to university administrative overhead. Once the public has paid for the research, the researchers aren't required to report to the public; they give data to journal publishers who in turn sell it. If the study doesn't get published, it vanishes into a black hole. In the time between funding and publication, there's little accountability. Nobel laureate Richard Feynmann said that scientists have a duty to disclose everything about a study, and it should be the public's prerogative to decide whether to fund it. 2 Health care researchers tend to think they have a moral imperative to conduct research. That's precisely why we all must relish "hit lists" and public scrutiny; it gives researchers the opportunity to help the public understand the importance of research and to separate the wheat from the chaff.




1. McCain R. Researchers fake AIDS study data. Washington Times 2003 Dec 5; A1. [Context Link]


2. Feynmann R. Cargo cult science. In:Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynmann. New York: W. W. Norton;1997: 338-46. [Context Link]