Federal Health and Human Services Department Names Research Integrity Head

After a two-year vacancy, the United States Office of Research Integrity (ORI), a government agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, has a permanent director. Sheila Garrity, a founding member and the first president of the Association for Research Integrity Officers, will assume the role this week.

The ORI serves as a watchdog for research funded by U.S. Public Health Service agencies like the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

According to its website, the agency has a mission to “protect the health and safety of the public, promote the integrity of U.S. Public Health Service-supported research and conserve public funds by ensuring the integrity of all PHS-supported work.”

The role of permanent director has been unoccupied since 2021, when then-director Elizabeth “Lis” Handley left the position to serve as principal deputy assistant secretary for health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

Wanda Jones, ORI deputy director and associate director of research and scientific integrity, served as acting director during the role’s vacancy.

Sheila Garrity

As permanent director, Garrity will help guide the agency as it oversees research misconduct investigations and encourages responsible research.

Throughout her career, Garrity has held several research integrity-related roles. She served as associate vice president for research integrity at George Washington University for nearly nine years. In her position, she is responsible for developing policy, conducting informational sessions and creating educational models.

Garrity also worked at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for over 20 years and was director of research integrity when she left the university. Garrity earned masters in business administration and one in public health at Johns Hopkins. She earned a law degree at the University of Maryland School of Law.

“No one objects to the phrase, ‘research integrity,’ Garrity said in a 2014 interview with GW Today. “Nobody wants to conduct sloppy research. It’s much better to partner with our community than to police them.”

The ORI’s appointment of Garrity after years of turnover piqued the interest of Alan Price, who previously served as ORI associate director for investigative oversight.

“Best wishes and many thanks to Dr. Sheila Garrity for accepting the role as new ORI director – and congratulations to HHS for finally selecting, after a decade, a distinguished, highly respected, outside academic, legal and administrative expert in research misconduct policy and conduct and adjudications of misconduct investigations,” Price commented after a Retraction Watch article on the appointment.

In that article, the director of the National Center for Principled Leadership & Research Ethics at the University of Illinois,  C.K. Gunsalus, echoed that sentiment that ‘it’s about time’: It’s been so long since there was [a permanent director] that the agency seems to have lost its momentum and lost its way. I wish her all the best and hope with all her connections and experience she can revitalize an office that has an important role to play. 

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Emma Richards

Emma Richards is a student at the University of Florida studying public relations. She is the social science communications intern at Sage Publishing.

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