If you've been wondering whatever happened to the "investigation" of psychiatric research that President Kaler promised three months ago, well, wonder no more. The university is seeking bids. Apparently, without any public announcement -- or as far as I can tell, even a private one -- the university administration posted a "Request for Proposals" on the university's Purchasing Services website on February 13. The deadline for bids is 2 pm this Friday.
Why would the administration keep this quiet? Or better yet: why would it issue a "Request for Proposals" -- presumably aimed at private business consulting firms -- rather than asking for an investigation by, say, a law enforcement official, or an impartial public body, or a respected figure in human research protection? And why would the university post the RFP on a website more typically used to solicit bids for beverage services, laboratory supplies and waste management contracts?
Those are rhetorical questions, of course. President Kaler has made it clear from the start that he has no intention of conducting a real investigation. My guess is that the administration has already identified a friendly consulting firm that will give it the answer it wants. And if anyone is in doubt about what that means, the RFP states it in black-and-white: the purpose of the review is "to instill confidence in the faculty and public that the University of Minnesota research is beyond reproach."
If you were a "vendor" looking at this RFP, you would have no idea that anyone committed suicide in a research study, no idea that this investigation was prompted by a letter of concern by 175 scholars in research ethics and regulation, no idea that there has been any trouble with the protection of human subjects at the university whatsoever. The RFP emphasizes that this review should be a "forward-looking" review of "current
policies, practices and oversight of clinical research" -- not past
cases of misconduct, and certainly not misconduct in the death of Dan
Markingson. In fact, the RFP has omitted the entire preamble to the Faculty Senate resolution, presumably because the preamble mentions Markingson's death.
In other words: business as usual at the University of Minnesota.