A study released this morning has found a high level of ghostwriting among the world's top medical journals, the New York Times is reporting.
Six of the top medical journals published a significant number of ghostwritten articles in 2008, according to the study by a researcher and editors at the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Among authors of 630 articles who responded to an online questionnaire designed by the researchers, 7.8 per cent acknowledged contributions to their articles by people whose work should have qualified them to be named as authors on the papers but who were not listed.
The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine had the highest rate, at 10.9 per cent. The Journal of the American Medical Association had a ghostwriting rate of 7.9 per cent, according to the study, released in Vancouver as journal editors gather to discuss ghostwriting.
Past studies have estimated much-higher ghostwriting rates, with some researchers saying their independent research foudn that more than half of the articles in some journals are ghostwritten. Today's study, however, relied on authors responding to an online survey, rather than a random sampling of researchers typically used in surveys, the Times points out.
Still, the researchers behind it said they hoped that the study will push journals to address the issue.
“These journals are the top of the medical field,” Joseph S. Wislar, the lead author of the study, said in a phone interview Tuesday.
He recommended that medical journals take more action to require that all contributors be listed in acknowledgments if they are not named as authors.
“Journals are really just starting to dig into that, and we’re hoping that’s going to help,” Mr. Wislar said. “We haven’t seen that help yet.”