Friday, August 29, 2008

Mail Order Academics

A new hot website.
Order your academic online here. Also available - kits to make your own academic.

(Product of a serious few hours working-up a new web authoring package).

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Listing of historical Pharmaceutical Corporate mergers

Some may find this useful. I have been trying to collate a large historical database of scientific deception, indexed against University, corporation, person and journal.

To do this, I needed to decide what to call various corporate entities. This is hard to do, as mergers and names vary with geographic location. For example the US division of Bayer went a completely different route from the parent Bayer (which re-emerged from the death camps of IG Farben). I have (for the moment) taken some poetic license.

Anyway, here is my work-in-progress - a historical listing of pharmaceutical mergers and major subsidiaries that can be sorted by date and company. Please send along any corrections or additions.

If you want to help maintain it (or if you know of anything better along these lines) then Email me. Feel free to criticize my artwork.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Conflicts of Interest - and silence

I'm a fan of Scott Adams and Dilbert. I like this 1996 strip. First, it features Procter and Gamble. Second it has something to say about conflicts of interest.

Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light is the ruler of Lower Heck (and the brother of the pointy-haired boss). It pokes fun at P&G's logo controversy. In brief, P&G received undesired media publicity in the 1980s when an urban legend declared that their corporate logo was a Satanic symbol. This forced P&G to adopt a new logo. In 2007 a court ruled that P&G is not in league with his Satanic Majesty. P&G won a $19m lawsuit against rival Amway over the rumours. I'll have more to say of this controversy later.

"This is about protecting our reputation," said Jim Johnson, P&G's chief legal officer.

The strip also has something interesting to say about conflicts of interest (and declaring of such conflicts). Some imagine that declaring conflicts is the be-all-and-end-all solution to the problems of pharmaceutical science. One counter-argument is that conflicts influence not only that which is done, but also that which is not done. Sitting in silence while a colleague is bullied for example.

I propose that more consideration should be given to the concept of corporate sponsorship "to stay away". Click Here to fund the Scientific Misconduct Blog.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008


I have taken a break over the past months while doing some more formal writing and (partially) recovering from illness. I ended up missing a whole lot of deadlines. The picture of Sisyphus sleeping is reproduced with kind permission of artist Michael Bergt.

I also spent some time thinking about the way we discuss malfunctioning systems in medicine.

During my break, I received some interesting documents about various cases I have been exploring. I received two amazing documents about UK medical regulators. These tell a story of corrupt organizations that are more interested in a surreal brand of public relations and self-protection than in any form of honesty. I received a few documents about myself.

Some of these documents made me angry. I have been wondering whether there is a type of discussion that is not legitimate. The internet is a scary place. Is it reasonable to embarrass individuals in positions of authority when those individuals have not (by any reasonable standards) behaved appropriately? I have generally tried to avoid embarrassing individuals, even though I have had ample reason and opportunity to do so.

Some of the documents I have are about other scandals that have already been ignored for many years. In many of these cases, both perpetrators and accusers have already suffered greatly. These are not individuals who are now in positions of any great authority.

The Bruce Hall affair

One such case is that involving Professor Bruce Hall in Australia. The scandal involving Hall resulted in the destruction of several careers. It has never been properly and openly addressed or discussed. The lessons have not been learned. Almost two years ago, I attempted to find out what happened. I began communicating with three very angry complainants, a journalist, several onlookers and Professor Hall himself. My questioning precipitated a trail of events which conveyed more about what might have happened than was conveyed by any of the conflicting reports. I was left with an immense feeling of sadness, not only for the students and staff who had raised problems, but also for Professor Hall himself.

Those students and staff wanted accountability, honesty and transparency. There was nothing that suggested to me that this was the intent of any of those in charge. Professor Hall was tired and apparently ill. He wanted to get on with doing good science. The real villains, it seemed to me, were not Hall or his wife, but rather the University of New South Wales and two medical journals who had behaved abominably. I ended up not discussing it at the time.

A document about myself

I also received a document about myself. This was an item of correspondence between two rather powerful individuals. It seems that my own refusal to go along quietly with attempts to manipulate the scientific method and the scientific record might imply that I am mentally ill. This kind of assertion is unfortunately a regular feature in many similar scandals. The person who wrote that letter should have known better. He failed to ask any of the obvious questions. He failed to stand up for what was right. He was someone I respected as a scientist. Indeed, he was someone who respected me (until I started asking the wrong type of question about the activities of his friends). I found this letter far more depressing than any of the futile and damning attempts by various authorities to cover-up what happened.

Is it worth discussing these things?

I think it probably is.

But it is hard to find a voice that conveys an attempt to learn (and teach) about malfunctioning systems - without also appearing to have a vindictive wish to inflict damage.

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