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Brown begins internal investigation of mental illness research project
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The administration of Brown University announced today that it has begun an internal investigation of work performed by Brown's Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior under a professional services contract with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH). The investigation began shortly after allegations of misconduct were published in the Sunday (Jan. 7, 1996) Boston Globe. The Globe report alleged that the DMH paid Brown's psychiatry department $218,000 in accordance with invoices that misrepresented work done and persons who provided services.
Brown research administrators had been unaware of the allegations until they were reported by the Globe. No inquiry concerning the Massachusetts research had been brought before research administrators, nor had the Globe contacted responsible University research officials for comment prior to publication.
"On the basis of the Globe's story, we began gathering relevant information and documents immediately," said Kathryn Spoehr, dean of the Graduate School and research. "Although the contract was administered by the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Butler Hospital, the department would have followed the University's well-defined procedures for research accounting and administration - procedures that have been audited and approved by the federal government. Our internal audit will determine whether those procedures were followed in this case and whether the billings to the Department of Mental Health were correct."
Research administrators are writing to appropriate officials at the DMH in an effort to understand the issues and events reported by the Globe and to pledge full and immediate cooperation, according to Brown Provost James Pomerantz. The DMH had not raised any concerns about the contract with the University's research administration.
By late Sunday evening, relevant memos, contracts, invoices and other documents had been gathered by senior University administrators from several sources, including Dr. Martin Keller, chairman of the psychiatry department and principal investigator on the contract. In addition to the provost, dean of research and dean of medicine, a team of investigators including staff from Brown's Office of Research Administration and the University auditor will review the documents in the light of allegations raised by the Globe's report.
"Brown University has long-standing institutional relationships with a variety of hospitals and health care agencies in our region," said Dr. Donald J. Marsh, dean of medicine and biological sciences. "These relationships are often quite complex, and it was not always clear from the Globe's article which institutions and employees were being represented. Our investigation will lead to a clear understanding of the contracts, personnel and research history that were called into question by the article."