Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Coping with scientific misconduct

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 20 October 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d6586

Rapid Response:

Re: Coping with scientific misconduct

It is worrying to hear of the problems Wager describes. The difficulties in getting research institutions to take misconduct seriously cannot be good for science.

However, I think the situation may be even worse than that. Much of Wager's article is based on the assumption that an honest editor does his or her best to get to the bottom of misconduct cases. But what if in fact the editor is complicit in the misconduct?

While COPE undoubtedly does excellent work in supporting editors who want to do the right thing, they are not a regulatory body who can enforce good practice on editors who themselves indulge in misconduct.

An article by Karen Shashok recently posted on the EMWA website describes a case of editorial misconduct, and how COPE's response to this did not adequately address the situation. Shashok suggests (and is not the first to do so) that what is needed is an international body that can hold journal editors to account, and I completely agree with her.

Scientific publications are important in advancing knowledge. Surely they are too important to be trusted to editors who lack proper accountability for their actions.

Competing interests: I was the victim in the case of editorial misconduct in the article I described. As a completely separate competing interest, I have collaborated on research projects and co-authored papers with Liz Wager.

30 November 2011
Adam Jacobs
Dianthus Medical Limited
London SW19 2RL