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April 6, 2000
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v2.1 Reference

Ethical Issues in Biomedical Publication

When the editors of two of the most prominent medical journals in the world—the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)—were fired in the same year, under circumstances that ranged from acrimonious to politically sensational, media attention again focused on biomedical publication. The controversy highlighted yet another ethical dimension of scientific research and its publication, topics that have generated intense scrutiny in recent years. As research funding has become scarcer and competition fiercer, with links between scientific discovery and commercial applications increasingly tighter and more lucrative, allegations of misconduct have also increased. Universities and research institutions, notably the NIH, have created offices of scientific integrity and mandated educational programs to investigate such allegations and to train researchers in the highest standards of sound, ethical scientific research.

Focusing on publication ethics as an essential aspect of responsible scientific conduct, Ethical Issues in Biomedical Publication examines a variety of troublesome issues, including authorship, peer review, repetitive publication, conflict of interest, and electronic publishing. The contributors include the editors of distinguished biomedical journals (among them, past or present editors of Academic Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, British Medical Journal, JAMA, and the Lancet), humanities scholars, scientists, lawyers, and a university administrator. Chapters address specific ethical issues and offer recommendations for preventing or solving problems associated with them. The result is a book that will serve as a standard reference for biomedical researchers, authors, editors, and teachers of research ethics.

"Educators, administrators, scientists, editors, and students should all welcome this comprehensive new book. Anne Hudson Jones and Faith McLellan have gathered a veritable who's who in the field of publication ethics for biomedical research. All those with a stake in biomedical research will surely want this volume on their bookshelf."—from the Foreword by Jordan J. Cohen, M.D., President, Association of American Medical Colleges

About the Authors

Anne Hudson Jones is the former editor of Literature and Medicine and a professor at the Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Faith McLellan is North American Senior Editor of The Lancetin New York City.


The authors have assembled an outstanding group of scientists with experience in their fields of expertise. The book is highly recommended for those intending to undertake clinical trials or similar research, as well as for those presently engaged in this field, as a refresher course in medical ethics.

- William P. MulloyMD - Journal of the American Medical Association

This book discusses such ethical issues in publication as authorship, peer review, and repetitive publication; it emphasizes the conflicts of interest that can compromise good authorship and reviewing practices; and it highlights the challenges that electronic publication is presenting to our ideas of ethical publication practices. I only wish that this book had been available when I began my editorial work, if not when I began my research career.

- Robert L. Perlman - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine

This rich collection provides practical help to those of us who work with scientists and physicians who do research and then write it up for publication. Almost every chapter enlightens with strong, new ideas. Patients, universities, the courts, and the medical profession will certainly be better off if the information in this volume is absorbed and put into practice.

- Medical Humanities Review

While peer review, authorship and conflicts of interest are mainstays of ethical discussion about science, the role of publication has not been fully examined before this provocative book.

- The Lancet

Science does not exist until it is published. Editors of medical journals, trying to ensure fair play as researchers compete for space in their journals, frequently encounter ethical problems, typically with authorship, peer review, and conflicts of interest and, occasionally, they find scientific misconduct. The experience of editors reflects the sometimes awkward relationships between authors, reviewers and editors, and the high stakes attached to publication. Ethical Issues in Biomedical Publication succeeds in being at the same time a rich survey of the field, a valuable source book for editors and researchers, and a useful guide to dealing with these difficult issues. The strength of this book is not merely that it tackles so many difficult issues in such illuminating ways, but it does so by allowing its distinguished authors the space to make their arguments and show us their important insights.

- Drummond Rennie, M.D.Deputy, Editor - Journal of the American Medical Association

A very thorough discussion of the various legal and administative solutions... The book is well-written, has case material and examples enough to make reading vicariously pleasurable.

- Bulletin of Medical Ethics


Jones and McLellan have performed an invaluable service in drawing together these important essays. The issues surrounding the ethics of biomedical publication have never been more pressing than they are today in a world of corporate support, pressures to make news, and the presence of the Internet allowing nearly instant communication. Up until now there has been little for those concerned about the ethics of publication to utilize. This book changes that situation and changes it much for the better.

- Arthur Caplan, Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania
Johns Hopkins University Press
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