Saturday, August 26, 2006

What's happening with conflict of interest and error correction at Science?

In August 2006, IPBiz mentioned the coverage by Science of the conflict of interest issue with the Nemeroff publication.

Flashback to USAToday in September 2003 (three years ago):

Two leading scientific journals are reviewing their editorial policies after complaints that they published material by researchers with undisclosed financial interests in their research fields.

Editors at Science, located in Washington, and London-based Nature said none of the examples involved results of experiments.

Instead, the articles in question fall into a secondary category of editorials, commentaries and data reviews of other scientists' work. Generally, these are not covered by disclosure policies.

"I think there is no bombshell," said Donald Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Science and a former Stanford University president. He called the complaint "a useful reminder" from "responsible critics."


The critics said Emory University's psychiatry chairman Charles Nemeroff reviewed mood disorder therapies in the monthly journal Nature Neuroscience without revealing his ownership of a patent on one of the treatments.

Now, flash forward to 2006. By January 2006, it was understood that Science had published primary research papers of Hwang Woo Suk and co-authors without disclosing the separate patent interests of some of the Korean authors and of Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh. By August 2006, Science itself was reporting certain issues with the publication of a research paper by Nemeroff.

Three years ago, Science could say: none of the examples involved results of experiments. Now they can't say that.

Of the publication in "News of the Week" in Science on July 28, 2006 alleging that new detail could be add to a patent application while claiming an earlier priority date, I had informed Eli Kintisch (after Science had declined to publish a letter to the editor) that the statement was wrong and that I would publish concerning the inaccuracy. I later informed Science that the article was accepted. There was no response to either. My article concerning the errors in Science/July 28 will be coming out in September 2006. The issue of what was "news" in the July 28 article also remains to be addressed.

***UPDATE on conflict of interest

On Dec. 9, 2006, the Washington Post stated:

A senior government scientist [Pearson "Trey" Sunderland III] who was a focus of a congressional probe into conflicts of interest in medical research admitted in federal court yesterday that he improperly failed to disclose payments of $285,000 he received as a consultant for the pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer Inc.


Sunderland, 55, admitted to entering consulting agreements with the drugmaker beginning in 1998 without receiving the required approval in advance or disclosing his income after the fact. Sunderland was paid as a consultant on two projects in which his department was collaborating with Pfizer on research to identify chemical warning signs of Alzheimer's disease.

The criminal prosecution of a researcher for violating conflict-of-interest rules is a rarity. But Sunderland's consulting arrangements, which first surfaced in 2004, were among the most egregious of the possible conflicts detailed during the probe by a congressional subcommittee.


U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said the case should send a message to other government researchers. "Dr. Sunderland violated the fundamental rule that government employees cannot accept payment from interested private parties without the permission of their supervisors," Rosenstein said in a statement.

[IPBiz notes separately the recent flap over the panel investigating drug-releasing stents, wherein conflict of interest rules were waived.]


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