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I read with interest the article by Luty et al. (1) about the
retrospective survey they conducted to determine whether medical specialty
journals were more likely to publish the research of their own editorial
board members or the research of editorial board members of rival
journals. I was surprised about the high degree (i.e., almost three times
more likely) to which these cases occur.
Typically, the reviewer evaluates the merit and acceptability of a
submitted manuscript, but the final decision is made by the editor.
Macrina (2) pointed out that "Reviewers [and editors] must be comfortable
with the job of impartially reviewing the work. Their review of the paper
must not constitute a conflict of interest, real or perceived [by
others]." I believe that editorial board members who want to publish in
their own journals should be required to disclose in their manuscripts
this conflict of interest, since all other authors are always required to
do so, be it financial or other substantive conflict of interest. Bosetti
and Toscano (3) suggested in a recent article a standardized and written
code of ethics which governs all stakeholders (authors, editors, members
of the editorial board and reviewers) in the peer review process, which
includes a mandated disclosure of real or perceived conflicts of interest.
Reyes (4) emphasized that "honesty and good faith in all the actors
involved in the process of biomedical publications remain the cornerstone
of scientific good behavior." I believe that if this relationship breaks
down, publications become nothing more than papers manipulated during the
review process. The ultimate outcome is that science will be distorted.
I agree with Luty et al. (1) that there is most likely not a single
factor attributable to this phenomenon of publication bias and
discrimination. In my opinion, more research should be conducted in this
area because of its importance to science and the many stakeholders
involved, last but not least, the reader of scientific articles.
1. Luty J, Arokiadass SMR, Easow JM, Anapreddy JR. Preferential
publication of editorial board members in medical specialty journals. J
Med Ethics 2009;35:200-2.
2. Macrina FL. Scientific integrity: Text and cases in responsible
conduct of research. Washington, DC: American Society for Microbiology
3. Bosetti F, Toscano CD. Is it time to standardize ethics guiding
the peer review process? Lipids 2008;43:107-8.
4. Reyes H. Honesty and good faith: Two cornerstones in the ethics of
biomedical publications. Rev Med Chile 2007;135:415-8.