Conservative groups accuse Princeton, other institutions of federal animal research non-compliance

Senators ask Government Accountability Office for investigation

The White Coat Waste Project and the Foundation to Restore Accountability accused Princeton and other elite institutions of violating federal law regarding animal research disclosure requirements in a report, “Ivy League Flunkers: Schools Fail on Federal Funding Disclosure.”

Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), James Lankford (R-OK), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) have asked the Government Accountability Office for an investigation.

The Stevens Amendment is intended to “give the federal government public credit for federally funded programs and projects,” according to Middlebury College’s summary. Federal grant recipients must state the total cost of the program and the dollar amount of federal funds used in all publications related to the project, including “statements, press releases, signs at construction sites, requests for proposals, bid solicitations, and other [related] documents.”

The groups’ report identifies three press releases from Princeton’s Office of Communications that allegedly failed to comply with the Stevens Amendment.

The first press release, “Scoliosis linked to disruptions in spinal fluid flow,” was published in June 2016 and fails to mention the amount of a National Institute of Child Health and Development grant that supported the research.

The second press release, “In unstable times, the brain reduces cell production to help cope,” was published in August 2016 and fails to mention the amount of a National Institute for Mental Health grant.

The third press release, “Monkey speak: Macaques have the anatomy, not the brain, for human speech,” was published in December 2016 and fails to mention the amount of a National Institutes of Health grant.

The press releases also do not mention the total costs of the projects.

“We have looked at the three announcements cited and each of them mentions the funding source,” Dan Day, Princeton’s assistant vice president for communications, said. “We’re reviewing the further requirements of the law.”

Princeton had only three allegedly improper press releases for a total of over $2.56 million in uncited taxpayer spending, while Harvard topped the list with 51 allegedly improper press releases for a total of over $177.2 million in uncited taxpayer spending.

In an interview with the Washington Times, Justin Goodman of the White Coat Waste Project said the law was important not just to give the federal government credit but for taxpayers to know how much the research they are funding costs.

“There’s a whole lot of wasteful experimentation on animals that the public is concerned about,” Goodman told the Times. “If they knew exactly how much money is being spent on some of these projects, like forcing dogs to run on treadmills until they have heart attacks, they would give a second thought about whether this is the way they want their money spent.”

Princeton is not accused of any form of animal abuse or research misconduct.

According to the groups’ report, the White Coat Waste Project commissioned a poll in March showing that 73 percent of voters, including 70 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans, agree that “federally-funded laboratories publicizing results of their research should be required to clearly indicate if the work was paid for by taxpayers and how much was spent.”

This is not the first time Princeton’s animal research has come under scrutiny in the recent past. A 2013 press release from Stop Animal Exploitation Now noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was probing Princeton’s handling of a marmoset monkey that escaped from its cage and was injured. The group also filed a new complaint in 2015 regarding Princeton’s handling of marmoset monkeys in a separate incident. A 2011 press release from the same group said that Princeton had been cited for Animal Welfare Act violations 22 times in the two years preceding June 2011.

However, according to Day, since November 2011, the University has been found to meet all federal standards during inspections by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service with one exception. The University was cited in 2015 for failing to secure a primary enclosure in a December 2014 incident in which two marmosets were injured, although they were treated immediately and fully recovered. No non-compliant items were reported during the 2016 inspection.

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