Reader Comments

Post a new comment on this article

Some thoughts on ghostwriting

Posted by AdamJacobs on 31 Aug 2011 at 09:14 GMT

I have made a number of annotations on specific parts of the this article, which I hope anyone interested in the thorny subject of ghostwriting will read. But in this overall comment I'd like to sum up some general points.

First, I hope we can all agree that ghostwriting is a problem, but we also need to agree on its definition. It is unhelpful when some people describe it in different ways so we don't know what the problem is.

Second, the medical writing industry has already made huge strides towards solving the problem. We're not there yet, of course, and I'm not going to pretend that no problem remains, but it's disappointing that this article doesn't acknowledge the progress that's been made, and indeed even seeks to deny it. I don't think that's helpful.

Lastly, this is a problem that everyone needs to tackle: medical writers, pharmaceutical companies, academic authors, and journals. I do find it disappointing that journals don't seem to have the appetite to do more. This article that journals "must take responsibility for their actions", which is a sentiment I entirely agree with. But this battle cry reminds me of the policement in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance: "Yes, forward on the foe!" "Yes, but you don't go!". I and some colleagues proposed a very easy and practical measure for journal editors over 2 years ago. Why aren't the journals using it?

I expand on some of these points, with references, in my annotations at the appropriate places in the article.

Competing interests declared: As stated in my first note