The Trouble with Medical Journals / Edition 1

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It is a turbulent time for journals publishing, with moves towards open access to scientific literature, the future of medical journals is uncertain and unpredictable. Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, provides a refreshingly honest analysis of current and future trends in journal publishing including peer review, ethics in medical publishing, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry as well as that of the mass media, and the risk that money can cloud objectivity in publishing. A useful resource for anyone with an interest in medicine or medical journals.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
5 Stars: This book is important to the general reader
I enjoyed the book - a real page turner!
Amazon customer review, Oct 2006

5 Stars: Editors unaccoutable as kings!
A stonking good read ... Wonderful stuff!
Amazon customer review, Oct 2006

5 Stars: A new classic
This book is a must read for anyone who practices medicine or conducts, peer reviews or publishes research. While the subject matter is extremely serious, with profound and unavoidable lessons for doctors, researchers, editors, reviewers and publishers, it is also highly entertaining thanks to Smith's story telling which makes each chapter a joy to read. The book has a broader remit than its title would suggest. It is as much about the state of medical research as a whole and its consequences for medicine, as it is about publishing. A new classic - highly recommended- 5 stars
Amazon customer review, Oct 2006

Lively, full of anecdote and he [Smith] is scrupulously honest
British Journal of Hospital Medicine

A punchy book that deserves to be read...All human life is in this book, which makes plenty of pertinent points...It is a real page-turner, and I recommend it.

Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, has written a witty, readable and provocative account of the current and future role of scholarly medical journals...I suggest you drop heavy hints for this book to be added to your birthday present list.
Learned Publishing

I read Smith's book with interest and was concerned greatly by some of the accusations he made within its pages.
Pharmaceutical Marketing

Amusing ...
The Times

This is an absolute must read book. It is beautifully written, but the content is quite devastating. I read it from end to end in one sitting and was riveted throughout. Any illusions one might have had about the integrity of scientific research, the veracity of papers, and the altruism of journals are shattered forever. But the demolition is done with such a lovely blend of logic, humour, anecdote, and evidence that it really does make a cracking good read. It should be a standard text for all courses in scientific subjects, never mind medicine, as it would open students' eyes to the dangers of taking published work for granted. If you buy no other book this year, buy this one, and then reflect on which of your colleagues most need a copy too, and either a) give them your copy or b) buy some more.
Evidence-Based Medicine: Primary Care and Internal Medicine, BMJ, August 2008

The Trouble with Medical Journals is truly an eye opening book. Smith is able to lend instant credibility to his claims as a former insider of that world. This book is highly recommended for all medical libraries. With its clear conversational tone and broad coverage of research and publishing, it will be useful for doctors, researchers, and librarians, as well as consumers and patients.
Medical Reference Services Quarterly, Vol 26, 4, 2007

This must be the most controversial medical book of the 21st century, with the same kind of explosive impact as Ivan Illich's critique of the limits of medicine, Medical Nemesis (1976).
Medical Journalists' Association News, Feb/Mar 2007

A valuable educational resource for editors and reviewers, and a gold mine of data for journalologists.
The Journal of the European Medical Writers Association, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2007

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Griffin Trotter, MD, PhD (Saint Louis University)
Description: The book examines ethical and social problems arising in the publication of medical journals. Rich in interesting and pertinent cases drawn from the author's immense experience as editor of one of the world's top medical journals, the book addresses a full gamut of topics, ranging from high-profile issues such as authors' conflicts of interest to less publicized problems such as the failure of medical journals to serve the developing world.
Purpose: The book questions the values that animate and sometimes corrupt medical journals as well as the professional and social roles that medical journals do and should fulfill, and critically assesses problems that arise in fulfilling these roles. It succeeds at each level, exhibiting a degree of comprehensiveness and a depth of insight that are unprecedented in the current literature on these topics.
Audience: The author, who is immensely and almost uniquely qualified to undertake this project, seeks to reach the general public as well as physicians and other medical professionals. Hence, the book is written in non-technical style, accessible to well educated persons who lack medical training.
Features: The book begins with a detailed discussion of issues related to the mission and purpose of medical journals, then proceeds to a detailed discussion of the actual procedures employed by medical journals in peer review, editing, content selection, reporting, and, perhaps most importantly, securing profits. It concludes with thoughtful chapters addressing the social significance and ethical accountability of medical journals. There is a multitude of immensely engaging stories, such that any reader who finishes the book will be up to date on relevant news events. Despite the book's impressive scope, it would be improved if the author devoted a chapter to the manner in which science is skewed — regardless of financial conflicts of interest — when researchers are the primary interpreters of their own data.
Assessment: This is an extremely valuable and uniquely comprehensive account of ethical problems in medical publishing, and is one of the most readable and entertaining books in the field. It is essential reading for anyone who desires to cultivate an understanding of pitfalls pertaining to the generation and marketing of medical knowledge and, thus, seeks to become a more sophisticated consumer of the medical literature.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781853156731
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,155,642
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Smith, Chief Executive, United Healthcare Europe. Former Editor of BMJ and Chief Executive of BMJ Publishing Group

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Table of Contents

SECTION 1: Introduction
1. Introduction: medical journals are probably a force for good but need considerable reform
SECTION 2: The nature of medical journals
2. Why bother with medical journals and whether they are honest?
3. What and who are medical journals for?
4. Can medical journals lead or must they follow?
5. What are and what should be the values of medical journals?
SECTION 3: The processes of pubishing medical research
6. The complexities and confusions of medical science
7. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals
SECTION 4: Problems in publishing medical research
8. Research misconduct: the poisoning of the well
9. The death of the author and the birth of the contributor?
10. Publishing too much and nothing: serious problems not just nuisances
11. Conflicts of interest: how money clouds objectivity
12. Editorial misconduct, freedom and accountability: amateurs at work
SECTION 5: Important relationships of medical journals
13. Patients and medical journals: from objects to partners
14. Medical journals and the mass media: moving from love and hate to love
15. Trying to stop failing the developing world
16. Medical journals and pharmaceutical companies: uneasy bedfellows
17. The highly profitable but perhaps unethical business of publishing medical research
SECTION 6: Ethical accountability of researchers and journals
18. Relations between research ethics committees and medical journals: guarding the probity of research
19. Ethical support and accountability for journals: an ombudsman, an ethics committee, and next?
20. Libel and medical journals: proper constraint or against the public interest?
21. The case that concern with ethical issues in publishing medical research is overdone
SECTION 7: The future
22. Ethical manifestos for four different futures for medical publishing

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