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[afro-nets] HHS monitors scientists' meetings
- Subject: [afro-nets] HHS monitors scientists' meetings
- From: Leela McCullough <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 04 Aug 2004 10:45:58 -0400
Submission from Spring Gombe <email@example.com>
HHS monitors scientists' meetings with international groups
[HHS stands for Health and Human Services, a US government body.]
DAILY BRIEFING August 2, 2004
By Denise Kersten
It takes about seven minutes to travel by subway from the Na-
tional Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to the World Bank
in downtown Washington. Riders don't even have to change trains.
But for NIH scientists, the journey must begin at least 30 days
in advance. A new policy requires them to submit official Noti-
fications of Foreign Travel before meeting with "multilateral"
organizations, including the World Bank, the Pan American Health
Organization, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme
and other U.N. organizations, even if the meetings will take
place within the United States.
Senior staff at NIH were notified of the policy in a June 26
memo from Sharon Hrynkow, acting director of the Fogarty Inter-
national Center for Advanced Study in the Health Sciences at
NIH, which sends the travel notifications to the HHS Office of
Global Health Affairs for approval. "NIH has been instructed by
the Office of the Secretary, Office of Global Health Affairs,
that travel of NIH staff to U.N. international organizations lo-
cated in the United States is to be considered foreign travel,
thus requiring ICs [institutes and centers] to submit [Notifica-
tions of Foreign Travel] per the usual process," Hrynkow wrote.
Notifications are supposed to be submitted at least 30 days
prior to travel.
The NIH procedure is part of a larger Health and Human Services
Department move. "We were instructed by the Office of Global
Health Affairs that NIH, as well as our sister agencies, were
being asked to do this," Hrynkow said in an interview.
In an April 15 memo to Health and Human Services operating divi-
sion and staff division heads obtained by Government Executive,
Office of Global Health Affairs Director William R. Steiger
wrote that all HHS experts must obtain "written determination
that there is sufficient legal authority and agency interest" in
order to meet with "multilateral organizations, including the
World Health Organization, its regional offices and other United
"The WHO often believes our experts serve in their personal ca-
pacity," the memo stated. "In fact, with very rare exception,
both U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps regulations
and U.S. Civil Service regulations require HHS experts to serve
as representatives of the U.S. government at all times and advo-
cate U.S. government policies."
On April 15, Steiger also wrote a letter to the WHO informing
the organization that it must submit all requests for experts to
Steiger's office and that it should make its requests based on
areas of expertise, rather than by naming individual scientists.
"The current practice in which the WHO invites specific HHS of-
ficials by name to serve [as technical consultants or temporary
advisers] has not always resulted in the most appropriate selec-
tions," Steiger wrote.
The WHO letter became the subject of several news articles after
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrote a letter to HHS Secretary
Tommy Thompson asking him to rescind the policy. "The trend of
increasing political control over scientific exchange is funda-
mentally misguided," Waxman wrote.
Gerald Keusch, who resigned as director of the Fogarty Interna-
tional Center in December, questioned Steiger's qualifications
to determine which scientists should attend meetings. Steiger
holds a doctorate in Latin American history. "Political appoint-
ees who are not scientists should not be judging what science
needs to be done or who advises the science agencies," Keusch
said. "The department seems to be either confusing policy and
science or deliberately making science conform to policy."
But Bill Pierce, an HHS spokesman, said the policy is not an at-
tempt to exert control over scientists. "It's more of an FYI
system," Pierce said. "We've asked that they tell us if they're
going or if they've had the meeting. There's no verification."
Pierce said travel notifications for meetings with U.N. organi-
zations in the United States can even be submitted after the
meeting has taken place, even though Steiger's memo stated that
"an official in the department must authorize" participation in
This document is located at
Global Access Liaison (for HAI, MSF and Oxfam)
J. v. Lennepkade 334 - T
1053 NJ Amsterdam
Leela McCullough, Ed.D.
Director of Information Services
30 California Street, Watertown, MA 02472, USA