University College London issues new research standards but says it won’t investigate Wakefield
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6220
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It is unfortunate that there was not an independent inquiry into the Wakefield case. There was more at stake than just Wakefield. Indeed a number of questions arise that go beyond University of College London’s oversight role in this research debacle. For example, how could a leading international medical journal like the Lancet fail in its gate-keeping role to prevent fraudulent research?
Furthermore, Wakefield’s retracted paper reflects a larger problem about the rising - some argue alarming - rate of retracted papers in high impact journals. (1) As a series of papers on the issue of retraction in the journal of medical ethics indicates, retracted papers can have a negative effect on patient safety. (2)
What needs to be done to address this problem effectively? And what role can journals play as gatekeepers in research oversight? What other institutions are responsible for creating more effective research oversight and how could their oversight roles coordinate? Does the recent collaboration between industry and the medical publishing community that targeted a credibility gap effectively address the issue? (3)
An independent inquiry would have hopefully explored and addressed these issues and offered recommendations. The absence of an inquiry is a lost opportunity.
1. Carl Zimmer, A Sharp Rise in Retractions Calls for Reform, The New York Times, April 16, 2012.
3. John Grever, Drug Firms , Journals Tackle Credibility Gap, Medpage today, May 29, 2012.
Competing interests: None declared
Health Research Associates, 22 Princeton PL, Guelph On, N1G 3S4
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