Federally Funded Research:

Controlling Inappropriate Access to Research Results

T-RCED-93-19: Published: Mar 11, 1993. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1993.

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GAO discussed federal research grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), focusing on the possibility of conflicts of interest or competitive advantage resulting from inappropriate access to research results. GAO noted that: (1) greater controls are needed to monitor access to research information and to the research beneficiaries; (2) between 1989 and 1990, 35 universities granted and earned $29.3 million from 197 exclusive licenses and $52.7 million from 339 nonexclusive licenses; (3) potential conflicts of interest between universities and private industry involved scientists who developed the technologies for exclusive licenses and owned stock in the licensee, and members of industrial liaison programs who are granted exclusive licenses for technology they did not directly co-sponsor; (4) in 1990, NIH and NSF spent $5.8 billion for university research and relied on universities to establish and enforce conflict-of-interest regulations; (5) NIH planned to publish regulations that would require interested research personnel to disclose outside interests before award and prohibit NIH clinical drug trial investigators and key personnel from having financial relationships with interested businesses; and (6) NSF has proposed that faculty members, investigators, and professional employees at grantee institutions disclose certain types of outside interests before an award is made.

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