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By the time we tell you about an exciting new development in medicine, years of painstaking work have already been done.

It all starts with a good idea but the process is so much more complicated - for good reason. First off - that good idea must be innovative enough to advance a particular field, otherwise it won't get funded.

Since most biomedical research is funded by the National Institutes of Health or NIH, scientists spend a lot of time on grant applications. On average, these end up being 25 pages - single spaced!

Dave and I have both lost sleep over them.

Next, they're reviewed by peers for quality of the science, the skill of the researchers and the adequacy of the facilities. Researchers who get approved for NIH or other federal funding are then held to very high ethical standards.

Their research must protect the health of human subjects and their information. Each university has a committee of scientists and members of the local community to see that the standards are met.

For human research, scientists must also include women, children and minorities to ensure their results can be generally applied across all groups. And if animals are used, a committee makes sure animals do not experience unnecessary pain and that only the minimum number of animals are used.

There's more. Biological, chemical and radiation safety boards also have their standards for researchers. While it all sounds like a lot of regulation, it's also why research is done safely in the US.

Fortunately drug companies have adopted the same standards so that research funded by these giants are also held in check.

One last issue. Scientists who hold stakes in a company sponsoring their research must disclose that and under go a review to determine whether they can be impartial to the results of their own work.

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For more information…

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)
Website from the department of Health and Human Services about research integrity which describes "programs designed to promote education and training in the responsible conduct of research…"
For more information…

Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research
Authoritative manual from the Office of Research Integrity which describes many aspects of research including: Planning research, laboratory animals, conflict of interest, data management and training responsibilities among other topics…
For more information…

On Being a Scientist
Classic line book by the National Academy of Sciences which defines responsible behavior for all scientists. A must read for all scientists in training. Includes case studies in this on line edition.
For more information…

 
 

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