News Release: University News

Oct. 12,  2008

Wagner Addresses Senate Probe of Nemeroff

Emory is committed to following fair process

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Sunday, October 12, 2008

By JAMES W. WAGNER, President, Emory University

Recent news stories report that Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has raised questions about whether Dr. Charles Nemeroff, Emory's chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, an internationally recognized leader in psychiatric research, has properly disclosed his financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

We have cooperated fully with the senator and his staff, from whom we have requested all supporting documents. Moreover, we are conducting our own investigation and are working diligently to determine the facts in the matter. I am confident that in the end we will determine whether these allegations are true. If they are, Emory has in place strong and proven procedures for dealing with their fallout.

But it is worth recalling three key principles as these investigations move forward.

The first and critical principle is that Dr. Nemeroff deserves a full and fair review of the facts before final conclusions are drawn — a principle with which I am certain that Senator Grassley agrees. It would be improper to judge Dr. Nemeroff guilty of anything based on allegations alone. So while we must move with deliberate speed in getting to the truth, we will not proceed with irresponsible haste. To give the process the utmost guarantee of full cooperation and unimpeded progress, Dr. Nemeroff has voluntarily stepped down as chairman of his department, pending resolution of these issues.

The second principle is the one that has guided our nation’s support of transformative research for more than half a century: the conviction that the benefits accruing from such research are worth the prudent investment of public funds. The federal government has also long understood the importance of well-managed collaboration between private industry and the academy. From such collaborations have come many of the biomedical discoveries that have improved human life and alleviated suffering in the past 20 years.

It is also essential, however, to manage properly any conflicts of interest that might jeopardize the scientific validity of the results of these collaborations.

That brings me to the third principle that needs underscoring — that universities are founded on the virtues of truth and trust. The health of any scholarly community — indeed of any society — depends upon the intellectual honesty and personal trustworthiness of its members. Emory is absolutely committed to this principle.

Most civilizations recognize, however, that principles need to be buttressed — and virtue needs to be safeguarded — by rules and regulations. It is worth noting that Emory, like other major research universities, has long-established policies limiting the amount of outside consulting that faculty members may undertake and addressing potentially conflicted situations. In addition, the funding agencies from which universities derive much of their research support — agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation — have abundant and strict regulations governing these matters, regulations to which we must and will adhere.

Emory would not be true to our mission of creating, preserving, transmitting and applying knowledge in the service of humanity if the very foundation of that knowledge were called into question by lack of integrity in research. We owe it to every citizen of the world not to fail in that mission, and we will not fail.


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