Friday, August 5, 2011

Ghostwriting, Again: This Time, Consequences

Some time back--
--I mentioned that we were still awaiting a case where an academic physician suffered clear, negative consequences as a result of being guest author on a ghostwritten paper, though I described a case that provided circumstantial evidence of such consequences. (That particular physician had two strikes against him, of which involvement in ghostwriting was just one, so it was not clear just what offense produced the consequences.)

Thanks to a regular reader of this blog, I now can report what seems a clear case of cause and effect re: ghostwriting and guest authorship, from our neighbors to the North:
This case involves a punishment meted out in 2010 (apparently, as it was not then publicly announced) by McGill University for a paper published in 2000. We need to note that while on the surface, it might seem unduly vengeful and petty to look back so far for a punishable offense, in reality this is often what the academic medical center has to work with. It is often the case that revelations about ghostwriting come to light only following litigation and the release of internal company documents, which most often occurs many years after the actual incident.

A possible defense of this academic was that back in 2000, this sort of behavior seemed routine and noncontroversial, and it was only years later that all the attention began to be paid to the ethical issues related to ghiostwriting. That is, in my view, a fair comment, and if you read the Montreal article closely you'll see that the level of punishment meted out was consistent with that level of seriousness (in my view).

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