Ethics scandals hurt U research

Daily Editorial Board

An independent review of the University of Minnesota’s psychiatry program released late last week revealed ongoing ethical problems within the department.
 
 
However, the University has challenged the accuracy of some of the report’s most serious allegations — which include claims of researchers depositing federal grant money into their personal bank accounts, faculty members failing to receive appropriate parental consent for children studies and a receptionist conducting psychotherapy.
 
 
Although the University ordered an outside consultant to assess problems in the psychiatry department, officials found it important to publicly note in a statement that they were “unable to verify without additional context or details” certain elements in the report.
 
 
It seems at odds for the University to outsource a critically important review — for the sake of neutrality — and then dismiss its most serious and embarrassing criticisms as untrue until school officials can double check them.
 
 
The fact that the University’s reputation is at stake in this situation is precisely why its decision to fact-check an external review is so misguided. 
 
 
But considering University leaders have been described in the past as “consistently unwilling to discuss” serious ethical issues and conflicts of interest, perhaps this latest public relations strategy should not come as a surprise.
 
 
Our school prides itself on being a land-grant university and steward for bright minds and principled citizens. But when it comes under public fire, its kneejerk reaction is not to take responsibility for its errors but instead to spin bad press by pointing fingers elsewhere.