Elsevier's Publishing Ethics

A few links on the recent Elsevier publishing scandal. Although I have no original comments, I didn't want to let this this ethical issue go unnoticed. Instead, here's the news story coverage that I've been following.

Reporting on an Australian court case involving the health risks of a Merck product, Bob Grant reports the connection to Elsevier:

"Merck paid an undisclosed sum to Elsevier to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles--most of which presented data favorable to Merck products--that appeared to act solely as marketing tools with no disclosure of company sponsorship. (see Bob Grant, “Merck published fake journal,” The Scientist 30th April 2009.)

On May 7th, Grant reports 6 journals produced by Elsevier were fake:

"Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted."(see full story Bob Grant, “Elsevier Published 6 Fake Journals.” The Scientist, May 7, 2009).

Further coverage in The Guardian includes this comment:

"Elsevier chief executive, Michael Hansen, has now admitted that they were made to look like journals, and lacked proper disclosure. "This was an unacceptable practice and we regret that it took place," he said." (see full story Ben Goldacre, "The danger of drugs … and data" The Guardian, Saturday 9 May 2009 )

Finally, here is Elsevier's posted press release in response, saying:

"We are currently conducting an internal review but believe this was an isolated practice from a past period in time. It does not reflect the way we operate today. The individuals involved in the project have long since left the company. I have affirmed our business practices as they relate to what defines a journal and the proper use of disclosure language with our employees to ensure this does not happen again."