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Peer review: Both authors and ghostwriters liable for fraud, in ghostwritten medical articles?

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Shape of things to come elsewhere?

In “Medical Academics Could Be Legally Liable for Ghostwritten Articles” (Chronicle of Higher Education, January 24, 2012), Josh Fischman reports,

Condemnation by ethicists and loss of grant money are not the only penalties facing academics who put their names on medical-journal articles they didn’t write. Personal-injury lawyers have them in their sights now, too.

Researchers at major universities, including Brown, Emory, Harvard, Stanford, Tufts, and Yale, have been accused in recent years of signing their names to medical-journal articles that were written by others, articles that promoted the benefits of various medications and were produced under the auspices of pharmaceutical companies trying to boost their products. Last year The Chronicle reported that a University of Pennsylvania psychiatry professor accused five other academics of signing an article that was ghostwritten for the maker of the antidepressant Paxil and made unsupported claims for it.

It gets worse. The ghostwriter could also be liable:

“By lending his name, the author is contributing to fraud,” says Bijan Esfandiari, one of the authors of the PLoS Medicine article. “And the ghostwriter is involved in the conspiracy as well.”

Of course, the good news, from a writer’s perspective, is that instead of the usual pressure to suppress the ghostwriter’s existence, there’ll be pressure to make sure everyone knows who she or he is.

You doubt that? How do you think the person got to be called a ghostwriter?

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose


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