It has been well over a year since Francis Collins announced his retirement as NIH Director. Since Dec. 20, 2021, his former deputy Larry Tabak has been serving as Acting Director—even though we are now long past the 210-day period during which a vacant position like this can be filled by an “acting” officer.
I think you may be right that the rules should be relaxed, perhaps requiring senior employees to place their stocks in a blind trust or some other financial mechanism to distance them from their assets.
But I am skeptical that the Conflicts of Interest requirements are the real holdup of appointing a new director. Is there really no prominent scientist who would jump at the opportunity to direct the largest biomedical funder in the world?
I also wonder if eminent scientists, like Langer, are the best options for running these organizations. It seems like the role of director is more of administration and management, whereas a seasoned bureaucrat would also be a strong pick.
I'm speaking out of complete ignorance. The NIH organizational structure is foreign to me, but I think this is an interesting conversation about maintaining ethical standards in research while still encouraging good science.