University Research: Most Federal Agencies Need to Better Protect against Financial Conflicts of Interest

GAO-04-31 Published: Nov 14, 2003. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2003.
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In fiscal year 2001, federal agencies provided $19 billion for university research, a vital part of the nation's research and development effort. GAO was asked to examine federal agencies' actions to ensure that (1) the results of the university research grants they fund are made available to the public and (2) universities receiving such grants implement policies for identifying and managing possible financial conflicts of interest. GAO reviewed the actions of eight federal agencies and conducted a Web-based survey of 200 leading research universities (refer to GAO-04-223SP). GAO also met with officials in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to discuss the National Science and Technology Council's role in coordinating federal science policy.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education To better ensure that the findings and results of scientifically valid research in education are widely disseminated, the Secretary of Education should direct the new Institute of Education Sciences to post the final technical reports of the research it funds on its Web site.
Closed – Implemented
The Department of Education agreed with our recommendation. Therefore, the Institute of Education Sciences has begun to post on its Web site final technical reports that contractors have prepared with Institute funding, after they have been peer reviewed.
National Science and Technology Council To safeguard against bias in the design, conduct, or reporting of federally funded research, the National Science and Technology Council should coordinate the development of uniform federal requirements for universities and other funding recipients to identify and resolve financial conflicts of interest. The NIH and NSF standards provide a useful starting point for this requirement.
Closed – Implemented
Section 8008 of the America Competes Act (Pub. L. 110-69, Aug. 9 2007) requires that recipients of grants or contracts funded by the Departments of Commerce, Energy, and Education under the act certify that no funds derived from the grant or contract will be made available through a subcontract or in any other manner to another person who has a financial interest or other conflict of interest in the person awarded the grant or contract, unless previously disclosed and approved in the process of entering into a contract or awarding a grant.

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