Science and ethics policy leader Sheldon Krimsky dies at 80

EEthical guidelines put in place to protect scientific integrity often struggle to keep pace with new technologies being developed at breakneck speed, especially as the nuances of policy are revealed and debated. For decades, one of the strongest advocates of clear and consistent ethical frameworks in research was Sheldon Krimsky, who died suddenly on April 23 at the age of 80.

Krimsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942. According to The New York Times, her father painted houses while her mother worked as a seamstress. He stayed close to home, attending Brooklyn College for a bachelor’s degree in physics and math, graduating in 1963. He then attended Purdue University and earned a master’s degree in physics in 1965 before earning his Doctor of Philosophy from Boston University in 1970. That same year, he married playwright Carolyn Boriss. After a few short-lived engagements at a handful of universities, Krimsky joined the faculty at Tufts University in what is now called the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning in 1974.

According to a 2016 interview with The daily life of tuftsthe university’s student newspaper, Krimsky began focusing on ethics in the late 1970s while conducting research that was eventually used by the federal government to show that chemical manufacturer WR Grace & Co . deliberately lied to the United States Environmental Protection Agency for 19 years about chemicals being released into the Massachusetts environment. The work led to the indictment of the company for poisoned drinking water. A few years later, his passions were renewed as biotechnology companies experimenting with DNA began to emerge.

“Shelly never gave up hope for a better world, whether it was her work on risk perception, the abuse of corporate-funded research, hormones, GMOs or DNA,” says Julian Agyeman, Tuft’s colleague, in the college newspaper. obituary for Krimsky. “He was the consummate activist-lawyer-scholar.”

During his career, Krimsky wrote more than 235 scientific papers and 17 books, the most recent Understanding DNA Ancestry, published in January. The book explores the history and science of the billion-dollar DNA ancestry industry, as well as the lack of an ethical framework regarding data use and privacy. His other work has also examined scientific work corrupted by private funding, undisclosed conflicts of interest, research misconduct, and more.

Although true to his belief in clear ethical guidelines, he acknowledged that the scientific process is not always straightforward.

“Conscious manufacturing of results, baking of data and things like that are pretty easy to come by,” Krimsky said. The scientist in 2004. “But there are times when research results cannot be reproduced, not because there was a fault, but because we don’t yet understand all the elements involved.”

Over the years, he has been a visiting scholar at various universities in New York, including his alma mater Brooklyn College, New York University, Columbia University, and The New School.

In 2017, Krimsky’s input was integral to the National Academy of Sciences’ conflict of interest policy update. Over the years he has worked with many scientific journals and research organizations to create open ethical guidelines.

According to another obituary, he enjoyed improvising on guitar and harmonica, often playing with friends. Krimsky is survived by his wife, two children, three grandchildren and a brother. After his death, the family created The Sheldon Krimsky Fund for Ethics and Environmental Values continue to build on his life’s work.