RESEARCH SECRECY: Scientists Silenced by Corporate Agreements
Researchers developing new drugs and treatments in conjunction with the biomedical industry are increasingly stymied by nondisclosure clauses when their findings are not to the companies' liking, the Los Angeles Times reports. For example, the University of Toronto's Dr. Nancy Olivieri was fired and her research contract severed after she published an article -- in violation of her nondisclosure agreement -- about the toxic side effects of a drug she was testing. The Times reports that some scientists are ramping up efforts to combat gag clauses and other artifacts of a "world in which intellectual property rights, material transfer agreements and nondisclosure forms can trump professional ethics and academic freedom." Physicist Irving Lerch, who is spearheading one such effort by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said, "The commercialization of science has led to a new regimen of secrecy that is of great concern to the scientific community ... secrecy of an entirely new scope and scale." The Times reports that most research agreements allow "private sponsors to delay publication of research only long enough to secure patent rights -- usually no more than 30 days, and in a few instances up to 60 days," according to the University of Southern California's Cornelius Sullivan. However, "when the grant is large enough, the rules are negotiable," with gag orders of up to six months -- "three times longer than federal [NIH] guidelines would allow for publicly funded research." Ironically, the recent corporate-driven secrecy comes as the government is striving to make its scientific data more available -- "the research community is fuming over a new law that makes all federally funded scientific data ... a matter of public record, subject to the Freedom of Information Act" (Hotz, 5/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.