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October 13, 1989

Investigation Results in Disciplinary Action Against Researchers, Retraction of Articles

JAMA. 1989;262(14):1910-1915. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430140010003

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QUESTIONABLE ETHICAL practices seem to infect many sectors of society, with the current antidote being to get rid of the offender. Congress sweeps out its own speaker of the house. Wall Street executives are prosecuted. And the scientific community investigates its researchers.

In the latter category, inquiry into a controversial case has just been completed by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Rockville, Md, resulting in disciplinary action against two researchers and the retraction of a number of papers, two in American Medical Association journals.

The saga began in the summer of 1986, when Stanford (Calif) University received a formal complaint about possible fiscal and professional misconduct on the part of the director of its Mental Health Clinical Research Center (MHCRC), Philip Berger, MD. Berger was also the principal investigator for the NIMH grant that funded the center.

A university investigation found not only that money had been improperly