A paper reporting an attitudinal study was sent for peer review. The editor received a letter from the reviewer stating that as he was personally acknowledged in the paper, he felt there was a conflict of interest and so unable to review the paper. The reviewer also pointed out that the research in question was part of a larger commissioned project with strict conditions of confidentiality. The persons surveyed were given assurance that the views expressed would remain unattributed and that the information gathered would be for research purposes only. The reviewer asked the editor to put the article on hold until he clarified whether or not the publication of part of the research findings would be acceptable,given the confidentiality agreements undertaken. What should the editor do now?
There is a breach of confidentiality here. The editor should go back to the first author seeking clarification of the supposed premature publication/breach of confidentiality, stating that a reviewer had brought this to his attention. If the reply is unsatisfactory, the editor should refer to the head of the institution. The reviewer should not lead this; the editor should.
The editor was satisfied with the lead author’s reply and publication proceeded.
A doctor has submitted an account of how his daughter falsely accused him of having abused her as a child. His daughter is another British doctor. We would like to publish the account as part of a package of articles on false memory syndrome. The questions we are considering are: (1) Can it ever be right to publish something that describes the intimacies of a family conflict, to illustrate a subject? (2) Do we need the daughter’s consent even if we are going to publish the paper anonymously? (3) Should we give the daughter a right of response? (4) Should we go ahead and publish the paper even if the daughter refuses to give her consent and declines to respond?
The father did not want to try to get consent from his daughter. Nothing was published.