Sunday, April 12, 2015

Anonymous Online Use of the Internet: Major Research Institutes Lack an Open Policy

Recently, I emailed the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Max Planck Institute, the University of Adelaide (Australia), and several other institutions regarding their online policy. 

My letter to each institute said [more or less] the following:


Dear University/Institute X,

I have recently noticed the use of online blogs and forums which publish and disseminate non-public information on ancient DNA studies.   Some of this information is making its way into publication and into subliminal promotion of genetic ancestry testing companies from whom certain entities stand to profit.

Some of these forums may be authored or used by faculty and staff of your institution.

I would like to inquire about your policy regarding online use of pseudonyms by staff and professors.

Does the University/Institute X have an online ethics policy, and if so, is this policy publicly available?

Is the anonymous use of online pseudonyms allowed by professors at University/Institute X?

Is the anonymous creation and use of online blogs allowed by professors at University/Institute X?

Is the anonymous use of pseudonyms permitted by professors and researchers that collaborate with University/Institute X?

Are public and private research funding disclosure requirements being met with regard to these anonymous posts?

What policies and practices does University X employ to ensure ethical online behavior of University X researchers and their collaborators?

Thank you in advance for the information.


It's been several weeks.  No answer.  Apparently, none of these research institutes have an online policy, or they simply do not answer questions sent to them by members of the public.  This does leave me wondering whether major research institutes even care to request that faculty adhere to a code of ethics and to funding disclosure requirements when using the internet. 

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