David Botstein on Scientific Secrecy
  David Botstein     Biography    
Recorded: 28 May 2003

Well, I think it’s a balancing act. I actually think that there are people who hate us. There are people who will exploit our openness. And I think that we shouldn’t go out of our way to make it easy for them. At the same time I think that keeping stuff secret by itself isn’t a very effective tactic. And, uh, it’s a balancing act. I don’t have any special wisdom on this point. I don’t think it’s self evident that people should publish things that are obviously useful and difficult just as we didn’t publish for many years things about atomic weapons manufacture. On the other hand, basic information about, you know, which are the elements and what they’re cross section is are basic scientific elements and I don’t think there’s a good argument for keeping them secret.

David Botstein is a prominent geneticist whose advocacy for gene mapping was crucial in laying the groundwork for the Human Genome Project. Botstein received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan for his research on bacteriophage synthesis. As a member of the MIT faculty he continued working with phage P22 DNA and discovered many bacterial and yeast genes. He served as Vice President of Science at Genentech before becoming professor at the Stanford School of Medicine where he led in sequencing the first large eucaryotic genome.

On July 1, 2003 he was appointed as Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University. At Princeton he will continue to expound upon genome projects, explore the relationship between genes within the genome, and uncover how diseases like cancer alter the expression of genes.

Botstein researched at the CSHL while on sabbatical from 1974-1975. At the 1986 CSHL symposium on Human Genetics he played a crucial role in advocating for the Human Genome Project. While serving on the National Research Council Committee he emphasized that money be laid aside to fund the sequencing of other simpler organisms with which the human genome can be compared. Like Jim Watson, he has passionately supported the Human Genome Project since its inception.