Skip to main content

NIH Ethics Program Overview

The mission of the NIH Ethics Program is to support the NIH mission of better health for the public. To achieve that, ethics staff assist NIH staff to meet the requirements of the statutes and regulations governing behavior of employees of the Federal Government. The Program consists of a central NIH Ethics Office located organizationally within the NIH Office of the Director (OD/NEO) and an ethics office in each IC, managed by a Deputy Ethics Counselor and staffed with one or several Ethics Coordinators/Specialists (view Ethics Contacts). 

Oversight of the NIH Ethics Program is the responsibility of the Director of the NIH Ethics Office in consultation with the NIH Deputy Ethics Counselor. In addition, ethics attorneys from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of the General Counsel, Ethics Division (OGC/ED) maintain an office at the NIH to provide legal advice and assist IC Deputy Ethics Counselors (DEC), and Ethics Coordinators as needed.   Staff in the central NIH Ethics Office are charged with providing leadership, guidance and advice to the NIH community, especially to the ethics staff in the ICs.  In addition, the NIH Ethics Office also serves as the servicing ethics office for the Office of the Director employees and the NIH Senior employees (per the definition of senior in the HHS regulation at 5 CFR 5501).

The IC Deputy Ethics Counselors (DECs) are responsible for oversight of their IC's ethics program. Specifically, they carry out the duties outlined by the Office of Government Ethics in their memorandum regarding responsibilities in an ethics office (DAEOgram DO-03-011pdf-icon.jpg) and the authority delegated to the NIH Deputy Ethics Counselor pdf-icon.jpg, which is redelegated to a DEC for each IC. The IC ethics staff are charged with specific responsibilities in support of the program, such as reviewing forms, assisting staff with procedures and questions, and submitting appropriate reports on ethics activities.

Employees have a responsibility to learn the how the statutes and regulations are implemented at the NIH.  For questions, employees will initially contact their IC's DEC or Ethics Coordinator with their questions, who will contact staff in the NIH Ethics Office or ethics counsel as needed.