To provide the first national data on the nature, extent, and consequences of withholding among life science trainees.
In 2003, the authors surveyed 1,077 second-year doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in life sciences at 50 U.S. universities, with a comparison group of trainees in computer science and chemical engineering. The study variables examined trainees' exposure to and the consequences of data withholding.
Two hundred forty-six trainees (23.0%) reported that they had asked for and been denied access to information, data, materials, or programming associated with published research and 221 (20.6%) to unpublished research. Eighty-five trainees (7.9%) reported that they had denied another academic scientist's request(s) related to their own published research. Five hundred thirty-three trainees (50.8%) reported that withholding had had a negative effect on the progress of their research, 508 (48.5%) on the rate of discovery in their lab/research group, 472 (45.0%) on the quality of their relationships with academic scientists, 346 (33.0%) on the quality of their education, and 299 (28.5%) on the level of communication in their lab/research group. Trainees denied access to research were significantly more likely to report that data withholding had had a negative effect on several aspects of the educational experience.
Data withholding had demonstrated negative effects on trainees. The life sciences, more so than chemical engineering or computer science, will have to address this issue among its trainees. Failure to do so could result in delayed research, inefficient training, and a culture of withholding among future life scientists.