Posts Tagged ‘Bioethics’

Penn Psychiatrist Accuses Five Colleagues of Plagiarism

August 2, 2011

Update! 3rd March 2012

University of Pennsylvania whitewashes its own psychiatrists

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Researchers names were apparently appended to a draft prepared by a “communications company” working for and biased in favour of a particular drug company!!!

Ghost-writing for German PhD theses is not uncommon and the suspicion has always been around that medical papers about clinical trials of drugs are not entirely free from the influence of the drug companies involved. But ghost-writing of scientific papers by public relations agents of the drug companies and passing them off as unbiased, objective studies is more than just “scientific misconduct”, it approaches fraud. It reduces scientists to the role of used-car salesmen. In fact the ethics of the used-car salesmen are to be preferred. The Universities who employ such “scientists” are not averse to subordinating their ethics for the sake of funding from the drug companies.

Such scientific misconduct is revealed only when an “insider” feels aggrieved enough to break ranks. The point of aggravation usually involves some dissatisfaction with the financial benefits which often flow from the drug companies – directly or indirectly – to the compliant “researchers”. And when Universities  investigate such wrong-doing themselves they usually whitewash themselves. In this case the “whistle-blower” seems to have been aggrieved at having been “left-out”.

One of those accused – Charles Nemeroff – has already been in hot water for not declaring more than $1.2 million of income from drug companies.

From Science Magazine:

Penn Psychiatrist Accuses Five Colleagues of Plagiarism

A University of Pennsylvania researcher has accused five colleagues of scientific misconduct for allegedly allowing a drug company to put their names on a paper that they did not write. But although federal officials have said “ghostwriting” may be a form of plagiarism, which is prohibited, it’s not clear that the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) would act on this particular case.

The spat involves a June 2001 paper in The American Journal of Psychiatry on a small clinical trial of the antidepressant Paxil that was funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the National Institute of Mental Health. In a 8 July letter sent by his attorney to ORI, Penn psychiatrist Jay Amsterdam, a co-investigator on the study but not a co-author of the paper, accuses five colleagues of “allowing their names to be appended to a manuscript that was drafted by” Scientific Therapeutics Information (STI), a medical communications company, that had been “hired by” GSK (then SmithKline Beecham). The complaint also says that the widely cited paper “was biased” in favor of the drug’s efficacy and safety and that Amsterdam felt that Penn colleague Laszlo Gyulai “misappropriated” his data.

ORI should investigate, the complaint says, because National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently wrote that articles ghostwritten by NIH researchers “may be appropriate for consideration as a case of plagiarism.” (ORI only investigates misconduct that took place within 6 years of an accusation, but it makes an exception if the accused scientists are still citing the paper; Gyulai cited it in 2007.)

The accused include Gyulai; Dwight Evans, chair of the Penn psychiatry department; and three researchers at other institutions. They include Charles Nemeroff, who in 2008 was found by Emory University to have failed to report drug company income; he is now chair of psychiatry at the University of Miami.

The complaint has been posted online by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a Washington, D.C., watchdog group. Its staff includes Paul Thacker, a former staffer for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) who led an investigation alleging that Nemeroff and other psychiatrists hid millions of dollars in drug income from their institutions. POGO wrote President Barack Obama Monday to complain that because Penn concluded that a separate ghostwriting accusation made by POGO against Evans last fall was unfounded, Penn President Amy Gutmann should step down as chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. “We do not understand how Dr. Gutmann can be a credible Chair of the Commission when she seems to ignore bioethical problems on her own campus,” the letter says.

Ethics of Journals: When plagiarism is not plagiarism

December 31, 2010

When is plagiarism not plagiarism?

Apparently when the editor of the journal BMC Medical Ethics finds that a paper published in his own journal has copied large chunks from a different (competing?) Journal – in this case Bioethics.

As Retraction Watch points out the retraction notice issued by BMC Medical Ethics is less than satisfying:

BMC Medical Ethics has retracted a November 2010 paper by two authors from Mayo Clinic whose manuscript — “End-of-life discontinuation of destination therapy with cardiac and ventilatory support medical devices: physician-assisted death or allowing the patient to die?” — contained passages that closely echoed those in another article, “Moral fictions and medical ethics,” published online in July 2009 in the journal Bioethics.

Retraction Watch continues:

We find the retraction notice more than a little opaque and confusing. It’s unclear how “similar” the article was to the Bioethics paper it offended. But why not use the word “plagiarism” to describe the similarities? Also, how convincing is that “no intention” disclaimer? (Not very, as it happens, as you’ll soon learn.) And why is the article still available?

We’ve emailed the editor of BMC Medical Ethics for an answer to these questions and will update this post when we learn more.

Retraction Watch spoke to Franklin G. Miller, a bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health and first author of the plagiarized Bioethics paper

Miller, to whom the retraction notice specifically apologizes, said he discovered the offending material this fall when he chanced upon the BMC Medical Ethics article.

I first saw a citation to a piece of mine in Bioethics, but then I had the feeling some of this language sounded a little familiar to me. I looked side by side at the two articles and I found extensive passages that were lifted—some were verbatim, some had a couple of minor word changes. There was a citation, but only one, and no quotation marks. They had essentially appropriated our language, our arguments, and our analysis as their own.”

Miller said he contacted the journal, which conducted an investigation.

At first they said they were going to issue a correction, which I said was not satisfactory. Finally the legal dept of the publisher of Bioethics got into the act, and that led to the retraction.

Miller said he is “very dissatisfied” with the retraction notice for its failure to use the word plagiarism and its claim that the misappropriation was inadvertent.

To say that it wasn’t intentional is mind-boggling. You cannot systematically lift someone else’s text without intending to do it. It seems not possible. A sentence or two, maybe, but not paragraphs.

It seems to me that at best the retraction notice is mealy-mouthed and at worst it represents a certain hypocrisy by the editor of BMC Medical Ethics.

Or perhaps it is only plagiarism when other Journals copy material published in yours but not when others are copied and published in your Journal?


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