Research Ethics Roundup: The latest on the H5N1 moratorium, regulating online research, and more!

In this week’s Research Ethics Roundup, hear the latest developments in the H5N1 debate, explore one doctor’s plan to minimize research misconduct, and learn about a recent study that found that some physicians may be doing research for all the wrong reasons.

Private-sector physicians run clinical trials mostly for the money, study finds: There has been a dramatic shift in those conducting most clinical trials from academically-affiliated physicians to private-sector physicians. A new study suggests this shift might be the result of big money’s influence over medical research, with many doctors thinking of trials as business ventures rather than scientific endeavors.

NIAID director urges continuation of H5N1 research moratorium: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Anthony Fauci has recommended that the self-imposed, six-month moratorium on experiments with H5N1 remain in effect until the benefits can be better justified to the public. Research on the H5N1 virus generated a lot of attention due to a lack of transparency combined with the virus’ high potency and potential for spreading.

To deter research misconduct, diminish fears of failure, detection: In light of increasing reports of research misconduct, one professor has offered a potential solution. Donald Kornfeld, MD, believes that cases of misconduct that result from trainees who are afraid of academic failure, and faculty who are convinced of their ability to avoid detection—the majority of reported cases—could be minimized through the implementation of strong mentoring and whistleblower programs.

When medical muckraking fails: In this piece, Carl Elliott attributes lack of successful medical muckraking stories over the past 40 years to the advent of the institutional review board (IRB) system. The author argues that because so many people are professionally invested in the system, which he views as secretive and inefficient, there is a strong resistance to any major change regardless of its potential benefit.

Government panel updating rules for online research: The internet has had a profound effect on many aspects of research. As government officials debate changes to the current regulations surrounding research, special attention is being paid to the relatively new online frontier. Among the topics discussed in this article are the definition of public space online, what constitutes a human subject, and how consent should be obtained.