Accountability a must

March 5, 2004

Sir Richard Doll has always been a heroic figure, prepared to lead from the front even when the going is tough ("Top cancer expert, 91: 'I'll go to jail for science'", February ).

Such courage and integrity are vital to good science. Medical sciences at Oxford University have benefited from lucrative long-term relations with the pharmaceutical sector.

Those with a commercial interest might conceivably feel "very agitated" by "hyper-regulation" of research. But initiatives such as the National Health Service's research governance framework are designed to improve accountability, safety, relevance and research-sharing to the benefit of the public. Researchers, health professionals, grant-giving bodies, journal editors and professional and learned societies must ensure transparency in research and development.

The General Medical Council has disciplined two doctors who committed research fraud, and an increasing number of statutory funding bodies will not support research that fails to incorporate user perspectives. Science should be ethical, safe and coherent. This is not just an individual's responsibility, the whole scientific community is accountable.

Woody Caan
Patients Panel
Addenbrooke's NHS Trust, Cambridge

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