In a story in this morning's Toronto Star, I explore the ties between McGill University professor Barbara Sherwin, alleged in court documents to have used a ghostwriter for an April 2000 study, and New Jersey ghostwriting firm on a second study published three years later.
Sherwin vehemently denies there was any ghostwriting involved in the 2003 article.
Here is her complete statement to the Star on the matter:
"Concerning the article in question, published in Endocrine Reviews in April 2003, I had refused to submit material offered by DesignWrite personnel. The article eventually published in Endocrine Reviews was entirely my own work. I cannot emmphasize that strongly enough."
"In my previous statement, I maintained that I had never - either prior to or following the publication of an article in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society in April 2000 - submitted work other than my own. I stand by that statement."
McGill continues to investigate. Here is the university's complete statement yesterday from provost Anthony C. Masi:
"As I said last week, McGill University takes academic integrity very seriously. We have policies and procedures in place that require us to investigate serious allegations of academic misconduct."
Jocalyn Clark, a Toronto-based senior editor for PLoS Medicine, which last month managed with the New York Times to get the court documents released to the public. says universities need take the lead in stamping out ghostwriting.
Academic institutions, she says, use a professor’s publishing record as the basis for promotions, grants and deciding who gets tenure – so have a responsibility to ensure those records are beyond reproach.
“Publications are the main currency in academic institutions,” Clark, an assistant professor at the Unviersity of Toronto medical school, said in an interview.
As such, the schools need to send a clear message that using ghostwriters will hurt an academic’s career, not help.
“Stamping out ghostwriting will only happen when academic institutions, their medical schools and their faculty declare that this is not acceptable,” she says.
PLoS, which in a recent editorial referred to ghostwriting as "the dirty little secret of medical publishing," has also called on medical journals to retract all ghostwritten articles, to notify the universities where the authors of the articles work and to ban those authors from publishing with that journal again.
Such measures, Clark says, could damage a researcher’s career. At that, she hopes, would be a powerful incentive for them to stay away from ghostwriters.
PLoS has also made the court documents available online.