The Merck-Elsevier Scandal & Research Integrity

You’ve probably heard about this story by now: the academic publisher, Elsevier, published a fake journal on behalf of Merck in Australia. Outrage has rightly been widespread.

I blogged about this over at the Business Ethics Blog, under the title Drug Companies Make Other Companies Do Stupid, Unethical Things

A couple of times recently I’ve read about pharma executives wondering out loud why their companies get such a bad rap — you know, what with all the good work they do, saving lives and all. The short answer is: we’d give you more credit if you would just stop distracting us by doing blatantly unethical things….

My focus in that blog entry was of course on bad corporate ethics. But as lots of other people have pointed out, this story also has bad implications for research integrity.

First, it’s straightforwardly dishonest, and amounts to warping the research-based evidence about pharmaceuticals (in particular, ones made by Merck, one of the world’s biggest pharma companies).

Second, as the Respectful Insolence blog pointed out, this incident also makes the entire effort at keeping healthcare rooted in ethics look bad. Why would anyone want to be associated with research-based healthcare if this is the sort of behaviour that typifies the field? Of course, that’s based on a ridiculously-hasty generalization. But still, Merck and Elsevier need to understand the damage they’ve done.

~ by Nancy Walton on May 12, 2009.

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