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Opinion / Institute of Medicine Medical Conflict of Interest Report Released

This report apparently focuses on financial conflict of interests, especially where there is a potential for patient harm.

Opinion / Victory for science and peer-review publishing

An editorial in American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy describes the outcome of a legal action against their journal from a manufacturer who claimed that an article (abstract only, full text requires a subscription) published in the 15 March 2007 issue of AJHP defamed the manufacturer "through the criticism and test results published in the article" as the manufacturer's prod

Opinion / Wall Street Journal report on an undercover operation by US congress on institutional review boards

The full piece, published on March 26th, which describes the operation as being a "congressional sting operation" is here, excerpt:

"The sting, detailed at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Thursday, involved the creation of a fictitious company and a fake medical device, a surgical adhesive gel. The sham firm then applied to three for-profit oversight groups — called institutional review boards, or IRBs — for approval to begin a clinical trial using their adhesive on human subjects."

Opinion / Trouble over conflicts of interest leads JAMA to revise its policy

An editorial in JAMA1 describes a case of an author’s undeclared conflict of interest which was reported to the journal by a reader, Jonathan Leo. The reason for the editorial (in addition to a published correction) is that Leo sent a copy of his letter to the New York Times and also posted his concerns in a BMJ Rapid Response2 which appeared before JAMA published its correction in its print issue of March 11.

Opinion / Editorial on bias and competing interests in PLoS Medicine

This month's Editorial (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000038) in PLoS Medicine discusses how the publication of scientific research can be inappropriately influenced by various forms of bias and the effects of competing interests. 

Opinion / Editorial on the Journal of Molecular Medicine's policy on scientific integrity

In their January 2009 Editorial (DOI: 10.1007/s00109-008-0428-x), the Editors of the Journal of Molecular Medicine have laid out what they are doing to protect the integrity of the journal. Steps include a compulsory authorship declaration (Download PDF, 40kb), and screening for image manipulation and for plagiarism.

Opinion / NIH to start policing conflicts of interest?

A report (free to view but registration required) in The Scientist describes the introduction by two US Senators of an amendment to the Economic Stimulus bill currently being debated in Congress which is apparently intended to better protect federally-funded NIH (National Institutes of Health) biomedical research from potential bias.

Opinion / Writers propose a checklist to stamp out ghostwriting

Medical writers from the UK, USA and Australia have developed a checklist that they hope Journal Editors might ask authors to complete to deter unacknowledged or inappropriate writing assistance (or 'ghostwriting'). It has been published in PLoS Medicine (doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000023) with a debate on ghostwriting from editors and researchers.

I should declare my interest, in that I am one of the authors (and definitely not a ghost)!

Opinion / Journal avoids the 're-review nightmare'

The Journal of Biology (published by BioMedCentral) is changing its peer-review process, apparently in response to reviewers and authors who disliked their previous system of sending revised papers back to reviewers for further comment which one described as 'the re-review nightmare'.

You can get more details from http://jbiol.com/content/8/1/1.

Opinion / Ghostbusting at Blood

An Editorial in Blood on the 15th January describes their experience of finding ghost authorship in a spontaneously submitted review article (which was spotted by a diligent reviewer) and the result of subsequent investigations of other papers. They go on to layout their policies on ghost authorship in both review and original research articles, concluding with this call to action:

Opinion / The FDA and conflicts of interests of clinical trial investigators

A new report by the Office of Inspector General at the US Department of Health and Human Services suggests that the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) is not effectively monitoring conflicts of interests of clinical trial investigators in new drug marketing applications submitted to them. The report, summarised in an article on Medscape, is available here.

Its top findings were:

Opinion / Why not make the COPE audit your New Year resolution?

We hope COPE members will find the new audit tool helpful. Journal Editors who were involved with the pilot said it was useful and one said it covered things she'd been meaning to do for ages! Although we're not asking you to share your findings with us (it's an audit not a survey), we would welcome any comments on how we could improve the audit, so I thought I'd start this blog string so you can add your comments or suggestions.

Opinion / Manipulation of physicians and journals: Neurontin discussed in the NEJM

Perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine on 8 January (not freely available, unfortunately) discusses the insights that have come from the documents made available as part of the litigation surrounding the off-label marketing of Neurontin (gabapentin). This is a very long-running story. However, the evidence still has the power to shock — for example, this quote in 1996 of an executive from the company selling gabapentin talking to a new recruit:

Opinion / Publication bias... again

Publication bias seems like a problem that just won't go away. PLoS Medicine published a paper (doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050217) late last year that indicated that this practice is alive and well in what is probably the most concerning area of all, clinical trials.

Opinion / You are banned from submitting to this journal

A few days ago, a newly qualified doctor asked informally if he could submit a 'slightly modified' version of a paper he'd just submitted to my journal to the BMJ. I told him about the evils of multiple submission and warned him that some journal Editors, if they discover the subterfuge, may well ban the author from submitting to their journal for a number of years. This, indeed, was the punishment that an Editor-in-Chief — not amused by a recent case of multiple submission to his journal — suggested at a recent COPE forum.

Opinion / Authorship trivia

We believe the paper with the most authors ever recorded (a massive 2512!) is Aleph et al. Precision electroweak measurements on the Z resonance. Physics Reports 2006, 427:257–454 (available at http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-ex/pdf/0509/0509008v3.pdf ) — unless somebody knows better...?

Opinion / How much do editors look for misconduct when they assess papers?

Lutz Bornmann and colleagues have tried to find out how much editors look for signs of research misconduct when assessing manuscripts. They reviewed 46 studies that reported editors’ and reviewers’ criteria for judging papers but found that none of the main criteria listed was related to detecting data falsification or fabrication. The paper is available at Scientometrics 2008, 77:415–32. doi: 10.1007/s11192-007-1950-2

Opinion / New version of the Declaration of Helsinki

Last month the World Association of Medical Editors announced the new version of the Declaration of Helsinki. This document, which was first drawn up in 1964, is essential reading for everyone doing research on human participants. The revision was the result of a huge amount of international consultation, and along with many other organisations, COPE provided input into this document.

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