Thursday, March 18, 2010

Basso's Relevance

As readers of this blog know, the likely upcoming exposure of Michele Basso's running battle with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's veterinary staff has been a very long-time coming (if it comes to pass.)

A few things to keep in mind, if and when the story breaks tomorrow:

Basso is part of the university's neuroscience training program. That is, students have been receiving their training, in part, from her. This suggests that a number of UW-Madison-generated neuroscience PhDs will have been taught that veterinarians' concerns and directives regarding animal care can be dismissed out-of-hand. And, indeed, it appears they can.

The veterinary staff began calling the university's oversight committees' attention to the serious problems in Basso's lab at least seven years ago. And essentially nothing was done. I have to qualify my observation with "essentially" because in fact, details were recorded and letters were written; but nothing changed.

Her work was suspended for a time, but the suspensions were kept hidden from the public. The veterinarian who suspended her refused to reinstate her, so another vet was called in to do so. Neither the NIH nor the USDA mentioned this highly unusual circumstance in their inspection reports, which suggests that the details were kept from them (or that they were complicit in trying to keep the problems out of the press, but this seems unlikely to me.)

The simple and straightforward fact that it has taken so many years for the university to deal with such blatant malfeasance even while monkeys were being so seriously harmed, is undeniable evidence that the oversight system doesn't work. It never has, and likely can't. It's a poor and toothless design that primarily benefits the researchers by providing a smoke screen or illusion of meaningful regulation.

Here's an example of the repeated requests we have been making over the past eight months:
December 20, 2009

Rick R. Lane
Associate Director
Research Animal Research Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison
396 Enzyme Institute
1710 University Avenue
Madison, WI 53726-4087

Dr. Mr. Lane,

This letter is in response to your November 16th request that I provide more clarification and specificity regarding my records requests of August 1, 2009 and October 27, 2009.

Briefly: I am requesting all records created during and or included in the recently concluded investigation of Michelle Basso’s lab.

In order to help you identify those records, I have described below in more detail the records I am requesting:

*Copies of all correspondence to or from Mr. Richard Moss, Professor, Department of Physiology, regarding Dr. Michelle Basso and/or any members or associates of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab, dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from any staff member of the UW-Madison Research Animal Resource Center (RARC) regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from any of the University of Wisconsin Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from any federal agency (i.e. the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare (OLAW) and the USDA/APHIS) regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab dated from July 20, 2008 to the present.

*Copies of all correspondence to or from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) regarding Michele Basso and/or any member or associate of the Basso lab, and/or the operation of the Basso lab from July 20, 2008 to the present.

Please send me any portion of this request as soon as it is located.

Your prompt attention to this matter will be appreciated. I am willing to pay up to $100.00 for copying costs. If the cost will be greater than this, please let me know when copying costs approach that limit.

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