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ARTICLE |

Withholding Research Results in Academic Life Science:  Evidence From a National Survey of Faculty

David Blumenthal, MD, MPP; Eric G. Campbell, PhD; Melissa S. Anderson, PhD; Nancyanne Causino, EdD; Karen Seashore Louis, PhD
JAMA. 1997;277(15):1224-1228. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540390054035.
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Objectives.  —To identify the prevalence and determinants of data-withholding behaviors among academic life scientists.

Design.  —Mailed survey of 3394 life science faculty in the 50 universities that received the most funding from the National Institutes of Health in 1993.

Participants.  —A total of 2167 faculty responded to the survey, a 64% response rate.

Outcome Measures.  —Whether respondents delayed publication of their research results for more than 6 months and whether respondents refused to share research results with other university scientists in the last 3 years.

Results.  —A total of 410 respondents (19.8%) reported that publication of their research results had been delayed by more than 6 months at least once in the last 3 years to allow for patent application, to protect their scientific lead, to slow the dissemination of undesired results, to allow time to negotiate a patent, or to resolve disputes over the ownership of intellectual property. Also, 181 respondents (8.9%) reported refusing to share research results with other university scientists in the last 3 years. In multivariate analysis, participation in an academic-industry research relationship and engagement in the commercialization of university research were significantly associated with delays in publication. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (Cls) were 1.34 (1.07-1.59) and 3.15 (2.88-3.41), respectively. Variables associated with refusing to share results were conducting research similar to the Human Genome Project (OR, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.75-2.42), publication rate (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 1.01-1.03), and engagement in commercialization of research (OR, 2.45; 95% CI, 2.08-2.82).

Conclusions.  —Withholding of research results is not a widespread phenomenon among life-science researchers. However, withholding is more common among the most productive and entrepreneurial faculty. These results also suggest that data withholding has affected a significant number of life-science faculty and further study on data-withholding practices is suggested.

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