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From The CriticsReviewer: 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.