Friday, October 29, 2010

Interview with a Ghostwriter

"Not sure there's anything new here" was the comment from my regular correspondent who kindly forwarded to me the link:

I agree that there's nothing earth-shattering for those of us who have been following the ghostwriting saga for the past few years, but on balance there were enough tidbits for me to feel this is worth sharing. The "ghost" who was interviewed made several important points:
  • While all academic physicians accused of having their name placed on a ghostwritten manuscript routinely assert that they were actively engaged in the writing process, made extensive changes in multiple drafts, etc., etc., our "ghost" confirms that many of them do nothing at all and just take the money (and the credit).
  • The universities are to blame, in part, when they impose publication requirements for faculty tenure and promotion, even when medical faculty have no time to write between their research and their patient care responsibilities, and even when some of them are simply lousy writers. (Indeed both are used by the "ghost" as clues for him to tell which academic physicians probably have their names on a lot of ghostwritten articles.)
  • The "ghost" thinks that commonly quoted figures for the prevalence of ghostwriting in medical journals--in the 10 percent range-- are way low.
  • The "ghost" makes the good point that if the science is marvelous, and the writing stinks, then the research paper will not get published in a top tier journal. Good science does not automatically make for good writing skills. If the official codes of ethics of the medical writers' societies were followed, and ghostwriters were honestly listed for their work on a manuscript, the system would work fine--the scientists could do their science and somebody who really knows how to write could make the stuff readable for the rest of us.
  • His own ethical assessment of the present system? "Leaves a bad taste in my mouth..."

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