and Secrecy in Science:
Variations and Impact
Karen Seashore Louis
University of Minnesota
Eric G Campbell
Faculty Entrepreneurs and Secrecy: What
are the Issues?
n Entrepreneurship is common practice in
academic life sciences
q Bayh-Dole encourages commercial application
q State legislatures want universities to play a key role in
q Many public universities see technology transfer as a
potential source of funds to offset declining state
q Faculty see commercial activities as a mechanism to offset
the wage differential between academia and industry
What are the issues?
n Secrecy is related to entrepreneurship
q Blumenthal et al research has shown commercial activities
are associated with:
n Trade secrecy
n Denials of requests for information, data and materials related
to published research
n Negative effects on graduate education
n Universities are concerned about conflict of
q Increased reporting requirements
q oversight in some institutions on both time and money
What are the ethical issues?
n Why is secrecy a problem for science policy
q Reduces ability to replicate published research
q Reduces ability to extend published research
q Negative effect on graduate training
q Reduces shared sense of purpose
q Likely results in inefficiencies in the research
1) What are there different types of entrepreneurship
among life scientists?
2) What is the relationship between entrepreneurial
behavior and experiences with secrecy within the
3) What individual and career factors, including
secrecy, predict entrepreneurship?
n NIH funded study of Secrecy in Science
(Blumenthal, Campbell, et al, 2006; Vogeli, et
al, 2006; Louis, et al, 2002)
n Sample of 2893 life scientists (faculty) at the
100 most research-intensive U.S. universities
n 1849 responded (64%)
Question #1: Are There Entrepreneurial
n 16 Items indicating entrepreneurial behavior (last 3 years):
□ Company Founder
□ Officer/Exec. Board Member Of A Company
□ Scientific Advisory Bd Member
□ Consultant For Pay
□ Research Led To Patent Application
□ Research Led To Patent Issued
□ Research Led To Patent Licensed
□ Research Led To Trade Secrets
□ Research Led To Product Under Review
□ Research Led To Product On Market
□ Research Led To Start-up
□ Getting Royalties
□ Getting Equity
□ Getting Industry $ For Students
□ Getting Gifts For Research
□ Getting Grants/Contracts
Question #1: Factor Analysis
n Four distinct factors emerged:
q Research Entrepreneurs: High loadings on items
involving research funding from industry
q Innovation Entrepreneurs: High loadings on items
involving patenting and early-stage commercialization
q Commercializing Entrepreneurs: Having products in the
market and receiving royalties.
q Leadership Entrepreneurs: High loadings on items
involving founding or directing companies
n The four factors account for 53% of the variance in
the 16 items.
n FACTOR ANALYSIS.entrepreneur.doc
Q2: The Relationship between
Entrepreneurship and Secrecy
n Two variables:
q Don’t Ask – a single question:
n How often have you refrained from asked other scientists for
information because you think that you will be denied?
n A four point scale, with 1=often and 4= never. Mean/SD=
q Deny – the individual’s response to requests for seven
types of information (lab techniques, findings, phenotype information, genetic
sequences, biomaterials, research tools or other).
n A four point scale for each was recoded into a yes/no
n Items were added to obtain a total “denying” score; 14% of the
respondents reported having denied or significantly delayed a
Q3: Entrepreneurship and Secrecy
n Innovative and Commercializing Entrepreneurs –
those who are patenting or bringing their own
research to market – are more likely to deny other’s
n Research Entrepreneurs are not hesitant to ask
others for information, but Innovative, Leadership,
and Commercializing Entrepreneurs are significantly
more likely to say that they don’t ask.
Q 3: What Predicts Research
n RESEARCH ENTREP REGRESSION.DOC
n In sum, the research entrepreneur is a scientist
whose research involves human subjects, is male, a
typical “highly productive” in traditional faculty roles,
while also engaging in innovative entrepreneurial
n Research Entrepreneurs are much less likely than
others to indicate that they don’t ask for information
from other scientists.
Q2: What Predicts Innovative
n INNOV ENTRE REGRESSION.doc
n In sum, the Innovative Entrepreneur is likely
to be male, highly published, and unlikely to
be involved in any other form of
n Innovative Entrepreneurs are much more
likely to indicate that they have denied or
delayed requests for materials and
Q2: What Predicts Commercializing
n COMMERC ENTREP REGRESSION.rtf
n In sum, commercializing faculty conduct research
using human subjects, are highly productive in
traditional faculty roles (publishing, supporting
students), and work in collaborative groups. They
are also less likely to be research and innovation
n Commecializing entrepreneurs are not more llikely
to deny materials to others, nor to ask for other’s
materials and data/information.
Q2: What Predicts Leadership
n LEADERSHIP ENTREP REGRESSION.rtf
n In sum, the model does not predict leadership
entrepreneurial activity well. Becoming involved in
founding or running companies is, apparently, rather
n Leadership entrepreneurs are much more likely
indicate that they don’t ask other scientists for
information and materials.
1) The four forms of entrepreneurship are distinct,
and do not represent a developmental path for
2) Research entrepreneurs are best viewed as
outstanding bench scholars in a traditional
3) Innovation and Commercializing entrepreneurs
probably represent different disciplines (those
using human subjects and those who do not)
4) Leadership entrepreneurs cannot be predicted;
becoming a leadership entrepreneur is not
explained by the factors in our model.
n Confirms previous research: some kinds of
entrepreneurship are associated with secrecy.
q Commercializers and innovators are “selling
things” and are more likely to be secretive..
q Secrecy is a fundamental component of the
marketing of research
n Openness is a scientific value; applying science is a
social and economic value
q If we limit or reduce secrecy will we depress
innovating and commercializing entrepreneurial
activities, which are socially valued?
n Increasing translational research activities in
universities may, inevitably, increase secrecy
Policy Issues for Oversight...
n Do we need more information about how entrepreneurial
activities are affecting science...
q Patenting and material transfers?
q Costs to research programs in high social priority
areas (genetics as a prime example)
n Should federal policy mandate openness -- require
deposit of all biomaterials prior to publication?
n How effective are current educational programs in
dealing with entrepreneurialism and secrecy?
n How do current university conflict of interest and
oversight policies distinguish different types of