David B. Allison, dean and distinguished professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, has been chosen to co-chair and serve on a newly established Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust through the National Academy of Sciences.
The council will convene stakeholders across the research enterprise to develop ways to promote high-quality research practices and to anticipate and address challenges to research ethics and integrity.
"It was Abraham Lincoln who inaugurated the National Academy of Sciences and who, perhaps apocryphally, is said to have wisely offered, 'Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe,'" Allison said. "Science is our best way of coming to knowledge about the world. Society continues, as it should, to rely on science to 'deliver the goods' of both insight and utility. For science to continue to deliver those goods with maximum efficiency and fidelity, we need to take time to sharpen the axe of science. That is what the Strategic Council will do."
The Strategic Council will serve as a venue where researchers, institutions, and policymakers can identify challenges to the integrity and health of the research enterprise—for example, conflicting and ineffective requirements, problematic incentive systems, and barriers to inclusion and equity—and work to develop policies and best practices for solving these challenges.
Additional issues the Strategic Council may tackle include identifying methods to assess the quality of research, developing standards for recognizing and mitigating conflicts of interest, and finding ways to improve efficiency and reduce redundant reporting.
Allison, an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academies, became dean and provost professor at the IU-Bloomington School of Public Health in 2017. He received his Ph.D. from Hofstra University. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and held a faculty position at the NIH-funded New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University until 2001. After that, he spent 17 years at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, serving as distinguished professor and director of the NIH-funded Nutrition Obesity Research Center.
Allison has authored more than 500 scientific publications, received numerous awards, and has served on many boards and councils—including the Scientific Advisory Board for the Nutrition Science Initiative, and the Committee on Science and Technology Engagement with the Public for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The creation of the Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust stems from three recent reports from the National Academies: Optimizing the Nation's Investment in Academic Research (2016), Fostering Integrity in Research (2017), and Reproducibility and Replicability in Science (2019). The reports recommend steps that could be taken and the creation of a body to elevate the excellence and safeguard the health and welfare of the research enterprise.
"A number of organizations focus on components of the research enterprise, but no entity currently exists to ensure that the various policies and procedures are not redundant, or worse, inconsistent," said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. "Our new Strategic Council will provide a much-needed venue for multiple stakeholders to collectively advance the research enterprise across the sciences, engineering, and medicine while preparing it for future challenges."
Allison is one of 17 people appointed to the council, which will hold public meetings to hear from the broader scientific community on issues related to research integrity, ethics, and trust and will develop an annual workshop to highlight and address specific key topics.
The project is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences – Ralph J. and Carol M. Cicerone Endowment for NAS Missions. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.