Wednesday, August 02, 2006

JAMA Editor as Cop?

The New York Times yesterday ran a profile of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) editor Catherine DeAngelis written by Donald McNeil.

The focus of the article is on Dr. DeAngelis's tough public stance for complete disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest by authors, and the discovery that some JAMA authors didn't disclose, and conflicts weren't discovered until after publication.

Her response: “I’m not the F.B.I.”

This rings a bell. In January, the Times ran an article about journal authors doctoring their graphics. Another highly respected journal editor, Emilie Marcus of Cell, echoed a similar sentiment when asked whether journal editors should test each graphic for possible manipulation: "Rather than having journal editors acting as enforcers, she said, it may be better to thrust responsibility back to scientists, requiring the senior author to sign off that the images conform to the journal's guidelines."

My opinion: both researchers and drug companies have work to do. They aren't bad guys, BUT the extent to which research and scholarlship on medical treatments is has been influenced is probably far beyond what is reasonable. Journal authors do need to take responsibility for their research and their data, and editors need to foster a culture that encourages it.

Full Disclosure: Cell Press is a former client of mine.

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