A prominent hormone replacement therapy researcher exposed by the New York Times last December to have put his name on ghostwritten studies for estrogen drug company Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has broken his silence to say he's sorry.
Seattle blogger William Heisel, a former award-winning health reporter for the LA Times, managed to reach Australisn researcher John Eden by e-mail, where others had failed.
He was surprisingly forthcoming and said he regrets the decision.
"We academics are under some pressure to 'publish or perish,'" Eden wrote. "Performance evaluation of at least Australian academics includes the number and quality of publications per year. In retrospect, I was probably naïve and I wouldn't do it now."
His comments cut to the heart of what observers have said is at the heart of ghostwriting -- professors are under pressure to publish papers, and to publish often, or see their careers suffer. So when someone comes along to help them get more publishing credits to their name, they agree.
In a written statement last weekend, Sherwin said she “made an error in agreeing to have my name attributed to that article without making it clear that others contributed to it.” Sherwin said she was not paid for the article, and believes the article reflected “sound and thorough scholarship.”
So was Sherwin duped or simply sloppy, so desperately keen to publish she was willing to blur the lines of ethical conduct? If, as she says, the article went through a peer review, why didn’t she mention the other authors? How often do academics, under pressure to deliver on deadline, rely on a ghost for hire?
Jocalyn Clark, a University of Toronto assistant professor of medicine and a senior editor at PLoS, says universities have a responsiblity to get tough on ghostwriting. PLoS, along with the New York Times, managed to get 1,500 court documents on ghostwriting made public, and then put them online.