Friday, December 6, 2019

The Front Page

Moonlighting costs University of California as professors fail to share outside income

LA Times, 12-6-19, Annie Waldman

[Note: Yours truly has omitted names of individuals from the excerpt below since there has been no response as yet.]

...A review of almost 90 UC system health faculty members, who had among the highest outside incomes at four medical schools, found that about two-thirds, including Hermanowicz, did not report all of the money as required...

The analysis was conducted by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom for investigative reporting. The news organization compared UC-required “outside professional activity” disclosure forms with a federal database, Open Payments, which collects information from pharmaceutical and medical device companies on their payments to doctors. The information gathered by the UC system and the federal government isn’t identical, but ProPublica took the differences into account. For example, it filtered reimbursements for travel, hotels and entertainment out of the Open Payments data because the UC system doesn’t regard such reimbursements as salary...

The examination found that the lack of candor within the UC system among many health sciences professors could be shortchanging the university — and, ultimately, California taxpayers. That’s because, alone among public universities nationwide whose policies were reviewed by ProPublica, the UC system requires most of its 4,000-plus health sciences faculty members to turn over to it any earnings above an annual cap of $40,000 or 40% of their base pay, whichever is higher.

The extent of the university’s slice varies from one department to the next at medical schools. The department retains a fraction of the money above the threshold and returns the rest to the professor as bonus compensation or to support conferences and other academic activities. For example, the department of medicine at UC San Francisco keeps up to 20% of income over the threshold...

In recent years, the internal UC Irvine audit and another at UC San Francisco have found that, of a sample of health science faculty members, about one-fourth weren’t disclosing all of their outside income.

ProPublica’s investigation and the audits show that campus administrators fail to monitor or enforce the rules adequately and rarely penalize violators — a testament, critics say, to the power of tenured faculty and the university’s desire to accommodate pharma companies that fund academic research. The underreporting at the UC campuses contrasts with the increase in researchers’ disclosures of potential conflicts in academic journals. The failure to report outside income may conceal conflicts of interest affecting the objectivity of teaching and research...

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