In DepthU.S. Congress

NIH says openness bill threatens reviewers

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Science  24 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6442, pp. 719
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6442.719

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is rallying opposition to a bipartisan bill moving through Congress that promotes greater transparency across the U.S. government. The legislation would close loopholes in the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), first passed in 1972, which sets rules for appointing and running the thousands of panels that advise government agencies. Over the years, some agencies have tried to avoid its requirements that panel members reflect diverse points of view and disclose any conflicts of interest, and that the public have input on the appointment process. NIH officials say a different set of rules apply to their study sections and warn that the new legislation, if enacted, would add months to the appointment process, generate piles of additional paperwork, and discourage scientists from volunteering to serve. Lawmakers are seeking to negotiate a compromise that would strengthen FACA without undermining peer review at NIH.