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We write in response to the original article by Rennie and Rudland published in the April 2003 edition of this journal.1 Current and former Dundee Medical School students are concerned at the media misinterpretation of the study and the consequences that this branding of “dishonesty” will have on Dundee Medical School’s reputation and also on individuals embarking on their medical careers.
This study was originally published in the BMJ in 2001,2 the data being collected more than two years before that. In the student response to this original study, it was noted that the study had taken place at the time of the introduction of the new curriculum and “students were being asked to produce excessive documentation. Some students did not reference source information properly—partly due to time pressures and partly due to genuine ignorance of proper codes of reference practice”.3 Further to that, the “scenarios” as described in the published paper, were phrased more ambiguously than the actual scenarios that were used in the questionnaires.
Dundee Medical School took the initial study very seriously. However, they embraced the information from the study in a positive way. Guidelines concerning what was considered fraud and plagiarism in terms of submission of work were established. A code of practice was also developed and this now has to be signed by all medical students on entry to Dundee.
Although much further statistical analysis has been done on this study since that original publication, it still contains all the original raw data. The republishing of this study and the media misinterpretation of it has lead to a whole new generation of Dundee students feeling that they have been marked out as “dishonest” when the Dundee Medical School curriculum has now, and for several years, fully implemented guidelines to guard against any misconduct.