More than two-thirds of the National Institutes of Health's grant recipients failed to meet federal disclosure requirements regarding foreign financial interests and support, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Tuesday.
The HHS oversight office issued a report after looking into NIH’s grants, totaling $31 million, to support biomedical research during the fiscal year 2020.
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) said that failures by some investigators of grant recipients — 69% of the total number — to disclose substantial contributions of resources from foreign entities (including foreign governments) had raised concerns about threats to the integrity of NIH-supported research.
The OIG report said NIH-funded investigators had failed to disclose grants received from the Chinese government.
"These problems often involved requirements to disclose nonpublicly traded equity interests from foreign entities and to disclose in-kind resources, professional affiliations, or participation in a foreign 'talents' program," the OIG report said.
"Some grantees also were unsure about whether or how disclosure requirements applied to R13 grants, which specifically support conferences and scientific meetings. In addition, some grantees did not comply with Federal requirements to train investigators regarding disclosure of foreign financial interests."
The report added that "10% of grantees did not perform required reviews to determine whether investigators' foreign financial interests were conflicts that could bias their research."
OIG made the following recommendations to the NIH:
- Ensure that grantees comply with federal requirements to train investigators regarding disclosure of significant financial interests.
- Ensure that grantees conduct the required review of investigators' significant financial interests to determine whether conflicts exist.
- Require grantees to provide trainings and to maintain a written policy regarding investigators' disclosure of other support.
- Modify reporting mechanisms to require grantees to report whether investigators' significant financial interests and other support involve foreign entities.
- Conduct outreach to grantees with R13 conference grants to clarify requirements regarding the disclosure and review of investigators' significant financial interests and other support.
- Clarify whether and how grantees should verify investigators' significant financial interests and other support prior to submitting information to NIH.
- Establish a method for grantees to share their best practices for identifying and reviewing investigators' foreign significant financial interests and other support.
The OIG said NIH had concurred with the recommendations.
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