News & Opinion
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.
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)!
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.
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:
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:
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.
A 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:
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.
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...?