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information related to published research results, this survey asked respondents whether they had avoided including unpublished scientific information in conversations with colleagues or presentations at seminar or conferences.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 Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

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)

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>