SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 9
January 25, 2002

SECRECY IN GENETICS

The first systematic study of secrecy in academic science found that geneticists often refuse to disclose the data underlying their research or to respond to other requests for information from fellow scientists.

"Forty-seven percent of geneticists who asked other faculty for additional information, data, or materials regarding published research reported that at least 1 of their requests had been denied in the preceding 3 years," according to the new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Because they were denied access to data, 28% of geneticists reported that they had been unable to confirm published research."

The study proposed a variety of explanations for this phenomenon. In particular, "The commercial applications of genetics research, along with increasing dependence on industry funding and the rise of commercial norms in the academy, may be partially responsible."

Explanations aside, secrecy remains a deviation from sound scientific conduct.

"The free and open sharing of information, data, and materials regarding published research is vital to the replication of published results, the efficient advancement of science, and the education of students. Yet in daily practice, the ideal of free sharing is often breached," the authors stated.

"Additional measures to improve openness of communication in genetics and the sharing of published information, data and materials seem justified," they concluded.

"Data Withholding in Academic Genetics: Evidence from a National Survey" by Eric G. Campbell, et al, is "the first detailed, systematic, quantitative portrait of the phenomenon of data withholding in genetics or any other field of academic investigation."

A summary of the new paper is available here:

Befitting the subject matter, the authors promptly responded to a request for further information.


ACKNOWLEDGING GARFINKEL

The retirement of Steven Garfinkel, director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) for the last couple of decades, was noted by Rep. Constance Morella in a statement in the Congressional Record yesterday.

Public servants come and go, and unless they really screw up, most people outside of their immediate working environment will never know their name.

But Garfinkel's positive impact on government secrecy policy has been so far out of proportion to the relative obscurity of his position that some greater recognition is demanded.

"His expertise has allowed him to create a system that has produced the largest number of declassified pages in the history of the Government's program--more than 800 million," said Rep. Morella. "This system will provide researchers and historians with new information that will help write our Nation's history for years to come." See:

Garfinkel's ISOO colleagues and friends have organized a celebration in his honor in Washington on January 30.


A BIOGRAPHY OF GENERAL GROVES

A new biography of General Leslie R. Groves, who led the Manhattan Project in the development of the atomic bomb, argues among other things that Groves was instrumental in the creation of what would come to be called the "national security state," with its strict controls on official information.

"Racing for the Bomb" by nuclear historian Robert S. Norris will be published shortly by Steerforth Press and is available for purchase now. For more information see:

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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