Ghostwriting in medical journals:
the white brush that tars all medical writers and authors’ editors

METM 06, Barcelona
27-28 October 2006

Elise Langdon-Neuner
Friday 27, 11:50-13:00, Room 2

A ghost writer is a person employed to write material for another person, who is named as author (Concise Oxford English Dictionary). But the spectre of the ghost falls on all those who help scientists write papers. The chill swept in from the pharmaceutical companies who covertly use professional writers to write medical articles for marketing purposes. To give credence to these articles opinion leaders, who might or might not have seen the articles, are named as the authors. The writer’s involvement is undisclosed because journals and readers are known to be sceptical of industry-supported papers. Exposure of a number of outrages of this nature led the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors in February of this year to update its guidelines, which now require editors to ask authors to disclose whether they have received any writing assistance. The World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) has issued guidelines to its members on revealing ghost authorship by reporting names to the media, academic institutions and the WAME listserver. The European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) has issued guidelines to its members calling upon them to acknowledge their involvement in the writing of manuscripts. This presentation will exam the issues surrounding ghost authorship and disclosure of writing assistance. A lively floor discussion is anticipated.

Elise Langdon-Neuner, writer and editor, Baxter BioScience, has a science and law background. Her experience in biomedical publications is on both sides of the fence ? as a managing editor of medical journals and as a manager in a pharmaceutical company assisting authors in the preparation of manuscripts for submission to journals. She is editor in chief of The Write Stuff, the journal of the European Medical Writers Association, and an editorial board member of European Scientific Editing, the journal of the European Association of Science Editors. Her main interests are ethics in scientific publication and the future of scientific communication.