To safeguard the integrity of National Institutes of Health (NIH) research, government employees who have significant decision-making responsibilities and peer reviewers who evaluate the scientific and technical merit of research funding requests should be free from conflicts of interest. One method to resolve a conflict of interest is recusal, which is accomplished by not participating in work that will affect a personal interest or involves a personal relationship. GAO reported on (1) how NIH informs senior employees about recusal and what the requirements are for them to notify supervisors, and (2) how NIH informs peer reviewers about recusal and how NIH monitors their compliance with recusals. GAO reviewed relevant NIH policy manual chapters and NIH guidance and interviewed NIH officials. GAO selected NIH's National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for the review because they have the largest budgets at NIH.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|National Institutes of Health||To address the inconsistencies in the policy manual related to senior employees' notification of recusals and ensure that NIH helps its senior employees fulfill their responsibilities related to recusal, the Director of NIH should expeditiously clarify NIH policies with regard to written recusals and supervisor notification related to senior employees' use of recusal to resolve conflicrs of interest.|