Stifled by regulation

March 12, 2004

In his comments about the accountability of researchers (Letters, March 5), Woody Caan implies that the only researchers concerned about hyperregulation are those with a commercial interest. Had he attended the lecture by Charles Warlow that sparked this debate, he would not have made this error.

Warlow predicted that clinical research in the UK would grind to a halt because of the impossibility of meeting bureaucratic demands.

None of the audience thought he was exaggerating.

I asked colleagues who are fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences if they disagreed or agreed with his views. All but one agreed, and several gave examples of research being delayed, watered down or simply abandoned because of regulations.

Nobody would disagree with Caan's view that science should be ethical, safe and coherent. The question is whether the system of regulation achieves this goal, or whether it consumes the time and energy of scientists to the point where they have no resources left to do research.

Dorothy Bishop
Professor of developmental neuropsychology
University of Oxford

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