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July 13, 1994

Is There a Case for an International Medical Scientific Press Council?

Author Affiliations

From the Medical Statistics Laboratory, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London (Mr Altman), and the Cochrane Centre, National Health Service Research and Development Programme, Oxford (Drs Chalmers and Herxheimer), England.

JAMA. 1994;272(2):166-167. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520020092027

Serious abuse of editorial power is rarely publicized, but evidence that it occurs is accumulating. Authors who believe that they have been dealt with unfairly have little possibility of a hearing of their complaint, and cases cannot easily be publicized because of fears of legal action. We describe briefly three cases in which the alleged misdeeds indicate that there were legitimate questions that needed answers. In the first case, an editor republished a previously published article without the authors' permission (but stated the opposite), attacked it in an accompanying editorial, and then denied the authors the right of reply. The other cases concerned a commissioned review article that was plagiarized and an editor with an undisclosed vested interest. An appeal process is needed for authors who think that they are victims of editorial abuse of power. We suggest that the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors turn its attention to editorial misconduct and explore possible procedures for allowing authors' grievances to be heard and for possible sanctions if complaints are upheld. An International Medical Scientific Press Council might be established to produce a code of conduct for editors and a corresponding taxonomy of inappropriate editorial behavior.

(JAMA. 1994;272:166-167)