Bioethics prof: Is the U of M picking a lightweight research reviewer?

University of Minnesota bioethics professor Leigh Turner writes on his blog, Health in the Global Village, that the university’s agreement to hold an outside review of the U’s clinical research practices seems hollow.

(The call for a review came amid lingering questions over university practices during a 2004 drug study, in which a patient committed suicide.)

Turner writes the U recently put out a request for bids on its MBid website for contractors who would conduct the review — a move he says indicates the university has no intention of taking a thorough look at the matter:

Unless the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues routinely trolls for contracts on the MBID website, it is unlikely that the kind of organization that registers with MBID is going to have the expertise, credibility, investigative powers, and forensic skills needed to conduct a thorough of investigation of numerous reports of psychiatric research misconduct.

This is not a job for a local business consulting firm, contract research organization, or independent ethics consultant.

Admittedly, if the University hires an organization with the stature and forensic skills of Louis Freeh and his company, as Penn State did during its investigation of child sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, there will at least be basis for thinking that the “contractor” is credible.

But I do not anticipate the University awarding the bid to Freeh or anyone else with his investigative skills.

Turner says he also believes the U will take advantage of the “poor wording” of the Faculty Senate’s resolution calling for such a review to sidestep the actual intent of the resolution.

You can read his full commentary here.

Turner isn’t the only one to have voiced concerns over the review.

I have asked campus officials for a response.

  • Sarah

    I was an office assistant for a UMN department a few years ago, and the official policy for getting ANY work done over a certain dollar amount was that bids had to be requested, even if the final service chosen was not through that system. It’s possible that they are just following procedure by opeing it up for bids?

  • thomas hussman

    If the UMN hires a stonemason to construct a building, the alternatives are few. If the UMN hires a carpenter, the alternatives are still few. There are only certain and few methods to properly construct a wood or stone wall. There is little subjectivity involved.

    If the UMN hires a consultant, or a private investigator, to evaluate the Department of Psychiatry’s negligence with respect to forged consent forms, bribery, malfeasance, conspiracy and an assembly of other torts, the list of candidates is long. There can be significant subjectivity, depending on the amount of money one is willing to spend on the wordsmith(s) who conduct the investigation.

    For a comparison review about how this works, or does not work, I encourage the reader to examine the famous failed investment case known as “Technimar.” In the “Technimar” case there is a report from a so called objective source. The report is titled “The Jones/Day report.”

    In case anyone missed the “Technimar” story, it was a multi-million dollar charade, ending in severe, unexplained losses to the city of Cohasset, and the former fund, known as the Minneapolis Police Relief Association.

    The public expects an unbiased and compassionate investigation into Markingson. The public is demanding the truth, now. This is a revolution in the making. Yes, truth is revolutionary.