The Public Interest

The new censorship of social research

Ithiel De Sola Pool

Spring 1980

THIS is a story of bureaucratic elephantiasis. It starts with a 1963 incident in which Sloan-Kettering researchers injected live cancer cells into patients for an experiment.  This led the U.S. Public Health Service to seek ways to protect itself from possible scandalous behavior by its grantees.  When it made grants, the Public Health Service required the recipient institutions to set up review boards to check that subjects in the experiments it was supporting not be subjected to untoward risks. From those reasonable precautions we have come to a point where regulations by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare will require that a university student or professor, whether he is funded by HEW or not, secure permission from a censorship board before he even interviews anyone!

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