Bioethics Blogs

David Wright: OASH "is secretive, autocratic and unaccountable."

David Wright has resigned as director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity. In his letter of resignation, obtained by Science Insider, Wright blames a dysfunctional Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH), which also houses OHRP.

[Kaiser, Joceyln. “Top U.S. Scientific Misconduct Official Quits in Frustration With Bureaucracy.” Science Insider, March 12, 2014.]

Science Insider posts Wright’s February 25 resignation letter to Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health. Wright explains:

The organizational culture of OASH’s immediate office is seriously flawed, in my opinion. The academic literature over the last twenty-five years on successful organizations highlights several characteristics: transparency, power-sharing or shared decision-making and accountability. If you invert these principles, you have an organization (OASH in this instance), which is secretive, autocratic and unaccountable.

He continues:

The sociologist Max Weber observed in the early 20th century that while bureaucracy is in some instances an optimal organizational mode for a rationalized, industrial society, it has drawbacks. One is that public bureaucracies quit being about serving the public and focus instead on perpetuating themselves. This is exactly my experience with OASH. We spend exorbitant amounts of time in meetings and in generating repetitive and often meaningless data and reports to make our precinct of the bureaucracy look productive. None of this renders the slightest bit of assistance to ORI in handling allegations of misconduct or in promoting the responsible conduct of research. Instead, it sucks away time and resources that we might better use to meet our mission.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.