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ORI Grumblings

The new head of the Office of Research Integrity at the US National Institutes of Health is facing some staff issues, ScienceInsider reports.

Kathryn Partin joined ORI last December, following the departure of David Wright. Wright resigned after about two and half years there, complaining of "stifling" bureaucracy. "What I was able to do in a day or two as an academic administrator takes weeks or months in the federal government," Wright opined in his resignation letter.

According to ScienceInsider's Jocelyn Kaiser, when Partin started at ORI, she conducted a review of the agency and brought on an investigator from the National Science Foundation to serve as her acting deputy director. This has been taken as a signal that Partin wants ORI to be more like NSF's Office of Inspector General, which has greater powers, including the ability to issue subpoenas, she says.

Critics of the agency have argued that the penalties the agency metes out for research misconduct are too light and that some of its policies on plagiarism and other offenses need to be revisited, Kaiser adds, noting that Partin has been equivocal on whether ORI should have subpoena power or conduct its own investigations.

Still members of ORI's investigative staff have complained to Partin's superiors that she doesn't understand the agency's regulatory constraints and that she is seeking to replace two division heads without justification, Kaiser says. "Whether the quarrel is more than a new boss challenging an old guard resistant to change is hard to resolve," she adds.