pay no attention to all that money behind the curtain

I give up.

You know that there is an intersection between science and marketing  – 4 of 5 doctors agree that X works for Y?

Most of the marketing goes on below public radar; it’s not directed at us, but at other medical professionals.   This 2005 article at PLoS Medicine couldn’t state it more strongly:  Medical Journals are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies.

This article is talking about sponsored trials – research that is sponsored by drug companies, that finds that the drug in question works:

Overall, studies funded by a company were four times more likely to have results favourable to the company than studies funded from other sources. In the case of the five studies that looked at economic evaluations, the results were favourable to the sponsoring company in every case.  The evidence is strong that companies are getting the results they want, and this is especially worrisome because between two-thirds and three-quarters of the trials published in the major journals—Annals of Internal Medicine, JAMA, Lancet, and New England Journal of Medicine—are funded by the industry (citation here, Egger M, Bartlett C, Juni P. Are randomised controlled trials in the BMJ different? BMJ. 2001;323:1253.)

Which has been a topic of conversation for a while, but why stop there?  If the drug companies can create a bunch of the research, why don’t they create the journals too?  Just create a journal.  Don’t pretend that it’s reporting knowledge for the public good, don’t make it so the public can even find it, don’t make it so the doctors can even find it – don’t index it in Medline, don’t even put a website up.

That’s apparently what Merck and Elsevier did.

The full original story is behind The Scientist’s registration-wall, so here’s a good summary with extra added TOC analysis from Mitch André Garcia at Chemistry Blog.

See, I talked briefly here a while back about my frustration with people like Andrew Keen and Michael Gorman when they accept uncritically the idea of traditional media gatekeepers serving a quality-control or talent-identifying role, without acknowledging that the corporate media makes many decisions that are not based on a mission of guaranteeing quality or identifying genius.

And Kate and I talk frequently about how traditional methods of scholarly publishing are not intended to guarantee quality in terms of identifying the best articles, or even the most true or accurate articles, but that those methods are instead intended to create a body of knowledge that supports further knowledge creation.

We’ve managed to fill presentations about peer review pretty easily without focusing on the corporatization of scholarly publishing — there’s a lot of discussion of this corporatization in open access conversations already and a lot of confusion that comes up about the implications of open access for peer review.  Sometimes it seems like every open access conversation in the broader higher education world gets bogged down by misunderstandings about peer review.  So it is has seemed true that drawing this artificial, but workable, line between what we are talking about and what we’re not, just makes it easier to keep our focus on peer review itself.

But man – it might be just too artificial.  Maybe we can’t talk about peer review at all anymore without talking about the future of a system of knowledge reporting that is almost entirely dependent upon on the volunteer efforts of scholars and researchers, almost entirely dependent upon their professionalism and commitment to the quality of their disciplines, in a world where ultimate control is passing away from those scholars’ and researchers’ professional societies and into the hands of  corporate entities whose decisions are driven not by commitment to quality, knowledge creation or disciplinary integrity.

We’ve been focusing on “why pay attention to scholarly work and conversations going on on the participatory web” mostly in terms of how these things help us give our students access to scholarly material, how they help our students contextualize and understand scholarly debates, how they lay bare the processes of knowledge creation that lie under the surface of the perfect, final-product article you see in scholarly journals.  And all of those things are important.  But I think we’re going to have to add that “whistleblower” aspect — we need to pay attention to scholars on the participatory web so they can point out where the traditional processes are corrupt, and where the gatekeepers are making decisions that aren’t in the interests of the rest of us.

pointed to the story by friends on Twitter and Facebook

Here’s the article at BoingBoing

blog.bioethics.net (American Journal of Bioethics)

Drug Injury watch blog has links to reports of the Australian court case where the story was noticed earlier.

4 thoughts on “pay no attention to all that money behind the curtain

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  4. Pingback: » And in other news… from the Library of Maura

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