Report reveals problems in U’s psychiatry department

A report released on Thursday found that staff members were concerned about inadequate training for research staff.

Kevin Beckman

Almost a year after school officials pledged to implement improvements, a new report about the University of Minnesota’s psychiatry department revealed ongoing problems within the program.

The report, issued by an independent consultant and released Thursday, detailed several ethical issues with the clinical research program in the University’s Department of Psychiatry. The University said not all of the allegations are accurate. 

According to the report, staff members expressed concern about sloppy record-keeping, outdated information about open research studies and inadequate training for research staff.

The report also alleges that some researchers deposited federal grant money into their personal bank accounts. The review found that one faculty member approached children for studies without first receiving parental consent and sometimes acquired permission through email or on the phone. In a cover letter released with the report, the University said those claims are not true.

“While the report provides some valuable insight, there are some elements in the report that we have been unable to verify without additional context or details,” the University said in a statement.

Another report released last February found “significant problems” with the University’s Human Research Protection Program’s core functions.

Those problems included concerns that the University’s Institutional Review Board, which evaluates research projects that involve human subjects to ensure protection for participants, wasn’t sufficiently reviewing research, leaving participants at risk.

A review of the circumstances surrounding research participant Dan Markingson’s 2004 suicide was released in March 2015, by the Office of the Minnesota Legislative Auditor. The report said Markingson’s suicide raised serious ethical issues and several conflicts of interest, which University leaders have been “consistently unwilling to discuss.” 

Following the two reports, the University unveiled several proposed changes to the way it protects human subjects, including hiring more staff for the IRB, increasing the number of the board’s review panels and paying review board members.