News & Opinion
13/10/2009 8.42am by
Sheldon Krimsky & Erin Sweet from Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA have studied the conflict of interest (CoI) policies of over 200 medical and toxicology journals. They found that about 85% of the journals had a written CoI policy but in many cases these lacked specificity or were of limited scope (eg covering only certain types of financial interest).
See Accountability in Research 2009;16:235-53
The article is not Open Access but the abstract is available on Medline.
12/10/2009 11.53am by
12/10/2009 8.21am by
Findings of a study on retractions funded by COPE were presented by Liz Wager at the recent Peer Review Congress in Vancouver as a poster and picked up by Nature Medicine. You can read the report in Nature Medicine October 2009;15:1101
16/9/2009 12.03pm by
One of the most discussed papers at last week’s Peer Review Congress in Vancouver (the whole programme is well worth a look) was one presented by JAMA editors entitled Prevalence of Honorary and Ghost Authorship in 6 General Medical Journals, 2009 . They had surveyed, anonymously, corresponding authors of 900 papers published in six medical journals and asked them whether there were any ghost authors or honorary (gift) authors on the published papers. 630 authors replied and in the abstract the JAMA editors reported that “ Honorary authors were reported for 31% of original research reports, 24% of reviews, and 22% of editorials. Ghosts were more prevalent in research articles (12%) vs reviews (6%) and editorials (5%)” Troublingly, “no significant differences were found between journals requiring author contribution disclosures and those that do not.”
The questionnaire that the JAMA editors used is not yet available and one of the journals represented in the survey, the NEJM, expressed some scepticism of the results. Obviously, it will be important to see the full results and the exact questions used but there is no doubt that at the very least this research raises substantial questions over how seriously authors are currently taking the concept of authorship – whether it be allowing ghost authors to have a substantial part in the writing of the paper, or giving honorary authorship to those who don’t really deserve it. And it seems that things have not got that much better compared to a previous survey, also by JAMA . The New York Times, which has a current interest in ghostwriting, reported on the paper.
Competing Interest: PLoS Medicine, the journal that I am Chief Editor at, was one of the journals surveyed.
16/9/2009 11.23am by
A recent news report in the BMJ highlights an initiative asking doctors to boycott an international medical conference because of the proposed chair. The conference, of the International Academy of Perinatal Medicine, will take place in Croatia in October, chaired by Asim Kurjak of Zagreb University Medical School, who, as the BMJ news report notes, “was found guilty of scientific misconduct by the Croatian government’s Committee for Ethics in Science and Higher Education in May 2007. The committee found him guilty of "violations of the [committee’s] ethics code and of common norms in biomedical publishing." Some of the long history of the misconduct - plagiarism - by Kurjak is detailed in the BMJ news report. Further details can be found in the original article published in the BMJ in 2006 by Iain Chalmers, editor of the James Lind Library (BMJ 2006;333:594-7, doi:10.1136/bmj.38968.611296.F7)
The UK Research Integrity Office has just finalised its Code of Practice for Research, revised following the public consultation on a draft version earlier this year. COPE also commented on the draft version. This final version of the Code is being circulated to the research community. A copy of the Code can be found on their website.
18/8/2009 11.56am by
A thoughtful editorial from Hal Sox, the outgoing editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine entitled Medical Journal Editing: Who Shall Pay? discusses the intense editorial process at the Annals and raises the question whether such a process is ultimately sustainable and if so who should pay. Annals is a subscription journal, which also, as Sox notes, derives income from pharmaceutical advertising - both of which revenue streams are decreasing for many journals. Though of course the subscription model is not the only one that can work for journals, it is true that professional editors in all types of journals have an important role to play, including for example in setting and maintaining standards in publication ethics. He ends by noting "The main lesson of my tenure at Annals is the importance ofprofessionals—volunteer reviewers and editors—whoread manuscripts critically, discuss them, and help authorsto improve them."
5/8/2009 11.26am by
Here's an interesting article in today's New York Times about the pharmaceutical company, Wyeth, which paid ghostwriters to write dozens of scientific papers to promote the use of hormone replacement therapy. These articles, which are said to have highlighted the benefits and downplayed the risks of HRT, were published in 18 medical journals and did not disclose the fact that Wyeth initiated and funded the work for the articles. A Wyeth spokesman said that it was common for pharmaceutical companies to use companies to help draft manuscripts for authors.
The article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/05/health/research/05ghost.html?_r=1&emc=...