Confidentiality agreements. Threats of lawsuits. Last-minute withdrawals of scientific papers. Sudden dismissals. Gag orders. Conflicts of interest, actual and potential. Lack of support for embattled faculty members by university administrators. It's a tough world for life scientists in the modern academic laboratory. Largely as a result of expanding commercial interest in academic research, today's faculty members and postdocs face threats and choices unknown to their predecessors.

The potential dangers of academic-industrial links formed one focus of a recent colloquium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, titled "Secrecy in Science" and sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and M.I.T. Speakers at the event highlighted two specific types of pressure:

  • corporate objections to publication of research that might put individual companies in a bad light

  • the effect of industrial support on academic scientists' attitudes toward such issues.

Speakers outlined three major instances of corporate pressure on life scientists...

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