In 1981, then Representative Albert Gore, Jr. (D-TN), chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee, held oversight hearings entitled "Fraud in Biomedical Research."5 The hearings were motivated by the four widely publicized cases mentioned above, the issuing by NIH of disbarment regulations, and the interest of Representative Gore in ethical issues in science.6 The witnesses were primarily senior spokesmen for science (e.g., Philip Handler, president, National Academy of Sciences [NAS]), but also included one researcher (John Long, Massachusetts General Hospital) who had admitted to having fabricated data on the size of the Hodgkin's immune complex and one scientist (Philip Felig, Yale University) whose career had been affected by a case of alleged misconduct concerning one of his students (Vijay Soman).
These hearings were a subset of ongoing congressional activities designed to examine ethical and institutional issues in science, primarily biomedical research. Other hearings focused on ethical issues surrounding recombinant DNA research.
Most of the witnesses at the Gore hearing held that the problem of fraud in scientific research was not significant and that adequate mechanisms existed within the scientific community to handle these cases. For example, NAS President Handler testified that misconduct in science was "grossly exaggerated" by the press and that it is not a problem when it does happen because "it occurs in a system that operates in an effective, democratic, and self-correcting mode" that makes detection inevitable.7
According to journalists Broad and Wade,8 the scientists who had been called as witnesses and the congressmen presiding at the hearing held strongly divergent views about the nature and seriousness of the problem. They reported that "Gore and his fellow Congressmen were moved to visible amazement and then anger at the attitudes of the senior scientists they had called as witnesses." Representative Gore typified the perspective of his colleagues when he said that "one reason for the persistence of this type of problem is the reluctance of people high in the science field to take these matters very seriously." Jim Jensen, formerly a professional staff member for the committee, stated that committee members expressed concern that the universities and responsible federal agencies were not prepared to handle these cases. In addition, some committee members suggested that scientists convicted