Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations MMR and scientific fraud

Is research safe in their hands?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 19 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d284
  1. Harvey Marcovitch, associate editor, BMJ
  1. h.marcovitch{at}

We can’t bank on keeping our science clean until the lessons of the Wakefield saga are embedded in our research culture

In 2009 Marcia Angell wrote: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.”1

Even making allowances for the cynicism of former journal editors the integrity of research remains fragile. In 2006, after suspicions were raised about a paper published in the Lancet, an investigation by the Norwegian Radium Hospital in Oslo found evidence of systematic fraud in the publications of Jon Sudbø, a cancer researcher at the hospital. The inquiry published its findings within months of the whistle being blown.2

Scott Reuben, previously head of anaesthesiology and pain medicine at Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Massachusetts, has just completed a six month jail sentence for healthcare fraud. Ten of his papers have been retracted from …

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