By Paul D. Thacker
Late last year, POGO sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) apprising them of four examples of academics who used the ghostwriting firm Scientific Therapeutics Information to publish studies, letters, and a book. POGO’s letter was covered by The New York Times, and Nature published an editorial excoriating the NIH for supporting researchers who fail to reveal their ties to industry.
Last week, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins wrote to POGO explaining his agency’s take on financial conflicts of interest and ghostwriting in academia. Presidents and Deans of America’s medical schools take note: Dr. Collins wrote that the NIH “does not condone the practice of ghostwriting.” In fact, ghostwriting is banned at the NIH, and if federal funds are involved, Dr. Collins stated that ghostwriting could be referred to the Office of Research Integrity for an investigation as “a case of plagiarism.”
Dr. Collins also wrote that the NIH is considering ways to deal with ghostwriting in its newly proposed revision to rules on conflicts of interest in extramural funding:
Because of its potential to create conflicts-of-interest that could bias or otherwise inappropriately influence NIH-supported research, “paid authorship” was specifically included in the proposed revisions to the regulations. By including “paid authorship” in the definition of “Significant Financial Interest” in the proposed rule, the NIH is sending a clear message to institutions and investigators alike that we support the principles of transparency and accountability in research and that institutions and investigators engaging in such activity may be subject to more rigorous disclosure and reporting.
People. Pay attention. Time to give up the ghosts.
Paul Thacker is a POGO Investigator.
Image by Flickr user LRobertas, used under Creative Commons License