AR-News: Formal records of research animals subpoenaed by federal
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Sun May 23 15:28:08 EDT 2004
From: primfocus at waste.org
Site URL: http://www.dailynorthwestern.com.
Formal records of research animals subpoenaed by federal government
Care, records compliance is focus of newest inquest into use of federal
By Dan Strumpf and Dalia Naamani-Goldman
May 12, 2004
The Department of Health and Human Services subpoenaed records related to
Northwestern's tracking and record-keeping of research animals, a university
The subpoena, issued Friday, involves "record-keeping and procedures used in
animal care" for research funded in part by grants from the Department of
Health and Human Services, said Vice President for University Relations Alan
The court order involves a "significant" number of records from several
years ago and concerns the same issues the Department of Agriculture
investigated last year, Cubbage said.
"There's no allegation about any abuse of animals," he said. "This is
strictly an inquiry as to whether the appropriate procedures were followed
and the appropriate documentation kept for federal grants for research done
by Northwestern researchers."
The National Institutes of Health's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare also
is investigating animal care at NU, Cubbage confirmed.
Ben St. John, a spokesman for the inspector general's office at the
Department of Health and Human Services, said the department only is looking
into instances of violations regarding grant money provided by its agency to
Northwestern researchers. St. John said he could not discuss details of the
subpoena because the case is still under investigation.
"The mission of the Office of the Inspector General is to protect the
integrity of the Department of Health's more than 350 programs and to ensure
the programs are efficient, effective and economically managed," he said.
St. John added that it is possible for the investigation to result in no
findings of regulation violations by university researchers.
"It depends on the findings," he said. "If, however, the federal funding at
issue has not been managed properly, then there could be some type of
adverse actions. It depends on the nature and extent of the findings."
The department regularly uses audits, evaluations and investigations to
ensure proper adherence to rules and regulations, he said. Using a subpoena
is not common.
C. Bradley Moore, NU's vice president for research, and Tim Fournier, NU's
associate vice president for research integrity, declined to comment.
The most recent subpoena comes on the heels of a series of investigations
into NU's research practices by other government agencies in the past
several years. All the investigations focus on research that took place over
a specific period of time four or five years ago, Cubbage said.
NU paid a $9,400 civil penalty in January to the USDA, settling an
investigation into the university's care and record-keeping of its animals
used in research. The university also paid $5.5 million to the federal
government in early 2003 to settle claims that researchers allegedly
misrepresented the amount of time spent on federally-funded research
In light of questionable research practices at NU -- which received $325
million in sponsored research funds last year -- university administrators
have channeled tremendous resources into improving its research
infrastructure, Cubbage said. Improvements include a new database for
tracking research animals and stronger administrative support. In addition,
the university hired Fournier in February due in part to issues relating to
research compliance and practices that arose out of government
"The university has, over the course of the past 18 months, invested
millions of dollars to improve the research support area in animal care,"
the wild, cruel beast is not behind the bars of the cage. he is in front of it - axel munthe
"Never doubt that a small group of dedicated citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead
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