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information related to published research results, this survey asked respondents whether they had avoided including unpublished scientific information in conversations with colleagues or presentations at seminar or conferences.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 Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

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: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers invent tiny, light-powered wires to modulate brain's electrical signals

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

The “Holy Grail” of peptide chemistry: Making peptide active agents available orally

21.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Atomic structure of ultrasound material not what anyone expected

21.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>