Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Studies examine withholding of scientific data among researchers, trainees

26.01.2006


Relationships with industry, competitive environments associated with research secrecy

Open sharing of information is a basic principle of the scientific process, but it is well known that secrecy has become a fact of life in academic science. Several studies have described how researchers may withhold the results of their studies from other scientists or deny them access to data or materials. In two new reports, researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute for Health Policy examine a broader range of withholding behaviors among life scientists than previously reported and describe how data withholding is affecting researchers in several fields during their training years. The papers appear in the February 2006 issue of Academic Medicine.

"Secrecy in science reduces the efficiency of the scientific enterprise by making it harder for colleagues to build on each other’s work," said David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, director of the Institute for Health Policy. "Secrecy cannot be totally eliminated; but to minimize it, we need to understand it better. That was the purpose of this work."



Blumenthal is lead author of the first study, which surveyed more than 1,800 life scientists at the 100 U.S. universities receiving the most National Institutes of Health funding in 1998. While previous studies focused on withholding information related to published research results, this survey asked respondents whether they had avoided including unpublished scientific information in conversations with colleagues or presentations at seminar or conferences. Respondents also reported whether they had kept information out of research manuscripts in order to protect their scientific lead or the commercial value of the data, including delaying publication of results for more than six months.

Some form of data withholding was reported by 44 percent of the geneticists and 32 percent of the other life scientists responding to the survey; and withholding data from publications was most frequently reported. Those who reported withholding were more likely to have relationships with industry beyond funding of their research – such as consulting or owning equity – and to have been discouraged from sharing during their research training. Data withholding was also more frequent among male researchers and, paradoxically, among those who reported having formal instruction in the sharing of information. However, when asked about their experience with sharing scientific information, respondents reported positive outcomes much more frequently than negative experiences.

The second study surveyed more than 1,000 scientific trainees – graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, a group not examined in previous investigations of this issue – in the life sciences, chemical engineering and computer sciences. Respondents from the 50 US universities that grant the most degrees in the fields surveyed were asked about their own experiences with data withholding, the consequences of withholding, the competitiveness of their lab or research group, and whether their research received industry support.

One quarter of the trainee respondents reported that their own requests for data, information, materials or programming had been denied. Withholding was more likely to have been experienced by life scientists, by postdoctoral fellows rather than graduate students and in settings described as highly competitive. Only 8 percent of trainees reported having denied requests from other researchers, with that behavior being more common among those reporting industry support or in highly competitive groups. Life science trainees were less likely to report denying requests than were the engineering or computer science trainees.

About half the respondents reported that withholding had a negative effect on their own research or the progress of their lab or group. A third reported negative effects on their education, and a quarter reported negative effects on communication within their research group. Some of those denied data reported having to abandon a line of research, being unable to confirm the results of other scientists, or having their research or a publication delayed.

"Data withholding clearly has important negative effects on the integrity of the scientific education system in the U.S.," says Eric Campbell, PhD, of the MGH Institute for Health Policy, who led the trainees study. "Failure to address this issue could result in less effective training programs, an erosion of the sense of shared purpose and a general culture of scientific secrecy in the future."

Sue McGreevey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mgh.harvard.edu/

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>