Harvard Institute of Health Policy Study
David Blumenthal


Genetics researchers at some universities are letting their personal financial interests impede scientific progress. David Blumenthal and his colleagues at the Harvard Institute of Health Policy found that one of every five professors in the life sciences had delayed publication of research results for at least half a year in order to protect financial interests. Those scientists who directly engaged in the commercialization of their research were three times more likely to delay publication and twice as likely to refuse to share information than those doing basic work. Among the life scientists, geneticists were the most likely to withhold data from other researchers.

In 2006, Blumenthal and colleagues reported on their survey of life scientists at the 100 most research-intensive universities in the U.S. Forty-four percent of geneticists and 32% of other life scientists reported that they had withheld data, either in oral exchanges or as part of the publishing process. The research being published in the literature was incomplete - 16% of geneticists had withheld information in their manuscripts to protect their lead, 12% to protect trade secrets, 6% to allow time for patents, and 2% to protect commercial value.

A 2006 survey of over 1000 doctoral students and post-docs in life sciences found profound effects of data withholding on the next generation of scientists. Forty-nine percent said withholding of information had a negative effect on the rate of discovery in their laboratory and 33% felt it interfered with their education.

Related Articles:

David Blumenthal, Eric G. Campbell, Melissa S. Anderson, Nancyanne Causino, and Karen S. Louis, "Withholding Research Results in Academic Life Sciences. Evidence from a National Survey of Faculty," 277 JAMA 1224 (1997).

David Blumenthal, Eric Campbell, Manjusha Gokhale, Recai Yucel, Brian Clarridge, Stephen Hilgartner, and Neil Holtzman, "Data Withholding in Genetics and the Other Life Sciences: Prevalences and Predictors," 81 Academic Medicine 137, 140-142 (2006).

Christine Vogeli, Recai Yucel, Eran Bendavid, Lisa Jones, Melissa Anderson, Karen Seashore Louis, and Eric Campbell, "Data Withholding and the Next Generation of Scientists: Results of a National Survey," 81 Academic Medicine 128, 131-132 (2006).

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