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That Paperwork, Though

The US National Institutes of Health opposes a bill wending its way through Congress aimed at making government advisory committees more transparent, Science reports.

At hand, it says, is the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act, which sets rules for how committee members are chosen and how meetings are run. But, it says there have been complaints for years that agencies are circumventing these rules, leading lawmakers to want to reform the act, Science adds, noting that Representative William Lacy Clay (D–Mo.) has repeatedly sponsored such a bill.

But, NIH opposes the bill, Science says. The agency argues that the bill’s provision to classify panel members “special government employees” would burden panelists with paperwork, including conflict of interest statements.

According to Science, Research! America’s Mary Woolley and Friends of Cancer Research’s Jeff Allen warned last year that this could “hamstring” the NIH peer review process as well as slow Food and Drug Administration evaluations.

Clay tells Science, though, that the bill has exemptions for NIH, but that exempting all Department of Health and Human Services panels is not possible.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ Andrew Rosenberg argues at his organization’s blog that “these amendments go in the right direction.”

“Spending a little time on disclosure will not go amiss,” he adds.