Accelerating access to biomedical evidence

Back to the future: openness vs. secrecy observed by AAAS and MIT

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Why do we need historians of science and medicine?  Historians tell stories, often commercially published books. I found a bit of open history tonight, almost 13 years old. More than a dozen years ago, 1999, there was no NIH Public Access Policy. PLoS was an idea being tossed around. BioMed Central had not launched. Creative Commons had not been founded. WordPress had not launched a blogging platform.

I Googled “AAAS open science” and  immediately saw this link:

Google search for "AAAS Open Science"

Being human and curious, I was drawn to  Secrecy in Science.

Secrecy in ScienceNow this is 1999.  Read one of the  introductory paragraphs that is on the home page:

During the past two decades, potential benefits of scientific and technical research have come to be connected more explicitly with industrial and commercial processes. The current university-industry relationship in science, while fostering many economic advantages, challenges the traditional norm of open scientific communication. Companies sponsoring university research may suppress research results or limit access to materials to preserve or enhance their competitive edge. The use of publication delays, censorship, and nondisclosure agreements can confront university scientists with professional and ethical dilemmas, particularly if their research findings have public health implications. The Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable of the National Academy of Sciences recently expressed concern “that increasing secrecy and proprietary pressures could jeopardize the value and utility of academic research for both public and private ends.”

Seems to me that this could have been written in 2012. After all, I wrote earlier this winter about the BMJ article that demonstrated  “ after a median of 51 months after study completion, we found that about a third of NIH funded trials remained unpublished“  and mentioned “a larger body of work focused on industry sponsored studies suggested that between 25% and 50% of clinical trials remain unpublished even several years after completion.

The difference today is that we have a blogging and social media culture that is eager to share secrets. And the movement of open access to biomedical research results is growing. But the relationship between government, university, and industry continues to obscure important biomedical research findings that prove little except no statistical significance.


Tue, March 13 2012 » Uncategorized

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