T H E   N I H   C A T A L Y S T     J A N U A R Y  –  F E B R U A R Y  2001


On Volunteerism

For seven to eight years now, I have thoroughly enjoyed the interactions with middle and high school students at the Montgomery (County) Area Science Fair. I see this as a chance to help promote the students’ interest in science as well as being just plain fun and a chance to learn for me. I have also been pleased with the response in 1999 and 2000 when I was able to get the clinical fellows to pass around an e-mail announcement asking for volunteers for judges at the fair (held in March or April each year).

What was disappointing were the "rulings" from the Office of Education that encouraging science fair participation does not fall within its purview and from the Office of Science Education that it could not send out an NIH-wide e-mail invitation to judge in Montgomery County. While Dr. Fuchs [Bruce Fuchs, director, Office of Science Education] did offer to set up a website for judges similar to that for NIH speakers, he wanted information about ALL the science fairs in the area, not just [those of] NIH’s host, Montgomery County—and this does not seem to be a good solution since the speaker website is so underutilized.

I would hope that the NIH administration could revisit what its role should be vis-a-vis local science fairs.

Linda Silversmith, CC


—We do encourage people to support local science fairs, but we cannot show favoritism to one school system over another. One possibility is to use existing e-mail lists (such as the Fellows’ list) to do this, rather than depend on a central distribution point.

Michael Gottesman
Deputy Director for Intramural Research


I think that the editorial on "Volunteerism Among Scientists: Passing the Torch" [see The NIH Catalyst, September–October 2000] should serve as a reminder to all intramural scientists that they have an obligation to indeed "pass the torch" in whichever way suits their interests and time. I for one enjoyed immensely the time that I tutored students at a local "Saturday school." Unfortunately, the program had to rent school space and was unable to sustain itself for lack of funding. . . .

In reference to volunteer work with professional scientific societies, I have found the interpretation of ethics regulations at the NIH to be a significant hindrance in these activities. More specifically, I was informed a couple of years ago that if I served on a society’s finance committee (a volunteer activity), EVERY activity with the society would be considered an "outside activity." This meant that editorial duties (a volunteer activity, and an important part of one’s scientific endeavors) could not be performed using government facilities (phones, e-mail). This would have made editorial work impossible.

I [support] removal of such irrational constraints on volunteerism, certainly where there is no remuneration or potential conflict of interest involved, and the activity is supported by the volunteer’s supervisor.

Raymond Mejia, NIDDK

—NIH employees are subject to the conflict of interest statutes and the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch. The regulations were written to provide a uniform legal framework in the federal workplace that would ensure the public’s trust in the integrity of government decision making. Certain ethics rules must be followed by all government employees to prevent conflicts of interest—or even the appearance of a conflict of interest—between an employee’s official duties and his or her outside activities.

Under the conflict of interest statutes, a conflict arises when an employee has a personal or imputed financial relationship with an outside organization and also deals with that organization as part of his or her official duties (for example, through a contract, a CRADA, or an official duty activity). Provided that an employee’s supervisor makes a determination that a particular activity does not create a conflict, an employee is encouraged to participate in activities with outside organizations. Such participation may include membership in professional associations and societies and/or service on boards and committees of nonfederal organizations.

An employee may participate in activities of a nonfederal entity in one of two ways: as an official duty activity or as an outside activity. Official duties are extensions of regularly assigned duties, are performed during regular working hours, and require advance review and approval by the employee’s manager. Examples include serving as a federal liaison to a professional organization, assisting other federal agencies, serving as an officer of a professional society, and serving as a peer reviewer of manuscripts for scientific journals. Conversely, consulting with industry for compensation or maintaining a private professional practice must be done as an outside activity. Taking financial responsibility for a professional society is also considered an outside activity because you have a legal obligation to act on behalf of the organization, which conflicts with your obligation to the federal government. Prior to engaging in any activity with an outside organization, an employee should consult with his or her supervisor, ethics counselor, or the NIH Ethics Office to ensure that the activity is legally appropriate and does not present any conflicts of interest.

Donna Cencer, NIH Ethics Office

Karen Dalheim,Office of the General Counsel


Balaban Elected President

Robert Balaban

Robert Balaban, scientific director of the Laboratory Research Program and chief of the Laboratory of Cardiac Energetics, NHLBI, has been elected president of the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance (SCMR). The SCMR is a rapidly growing international society, with a current membership of about 600, that focuses on the cardiovascular applications of magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy.

Over the last decade, Balaban has been developing the NHLBI research and clinical program in cardiovascular MR, as well as overseeing the joint NIH-Suburban Hospital emergency room MRI program, together with Steven Warach, NINDS, and Andrew Arai, NHLBI (see "New Clinical Research Plans Leap Space and Specialty Barriers," The NIH Catalyst, January–February 1999). Balaban also serves as the chair of the steering committee for the In Vivo NMR Center on campus.

Fellows Career Workshops

Where: Building 10, Lipsett
Time: 9:30 a.m.

1) Feb. 8, 2001–Patent Law
Kathleen Kerr, U.S. Patent Office
Grant Reed, attorney
Maria Freire, OTT, NIH

2) Feb. 22, 2001–NIH Administration
LaShawn Drew, NIH Academy
Sharon Gordon, OE, NIDCR

Reception to follow events.

For more info: <aains@box-a.nih.gov>.


Visitors to the NIDA molecular neuropsychiatry labs headed by Jean Lud Cadet should go to the 3rd floor of the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus building in Baltimore.






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