Joshua Bauml, a University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) oncologist won a coveted spot in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Loan Repayment Program (LRP) aimed to keep promising young biomedical scientists in academic research by helping repay school loans.
A Science investigation has revealed that many LRP participants are taking money from the government to repay their loans, while at the same time taking payments from pharmaceutical companies.
Bauml who will get $75,000 in tax-free loan repayments during his first two LRP years also accepted more than $28,000 in pharmaceutical industry money, mostly for consulting or speaking at pharma events, during his first 6 months in the program.
Over its history, the program has at times allowed recipients to accept industry support either by direct payments or research funding in unlimited amounts. As a result, the LRP in effect subsidizes some young scientists as they build strong ties to pharma.
The practice was allowed until 2017, but the latest program rules banned it, placing Bauml, who was shocked to learn from Science that he had broken LRP rules, in violation. Bauml says he disclosed everything to NIH and heard no objection.
Some say the LRP’s permissive approach is “ethically problematic.” The program should be more vigilant about industry payments to the researchers it helps.