In the wake of scandal over troubling research abuses, the 1970s witnessed the birth of a new system of ethical oversight. The bioethics framework, with its emphasis on autonomy, assumed a commanding role in debates regarding how to weigh the needs of society against the rights of individuals. Yet the history of resistance to oversight underscores that some domains of science hewed to a different paradigm of accountability--one that elevated the common good over individual rights. Federal officials have now proposed to dramatically limit the reach of ethical oversight. The Institute of Medicine has called for a rollback of the federal privacy rule. The changing emphasis makes it imperative to grapple with the history of the public interest paradigm.