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COI in Bioethics Publishing

February 23rd, 2012

Lest one think that COI is an issue of concern only for scientists or other health researchers who have relations with industry, the following scandal brewing in the world of academic Bioethics will provide a different impression. In a nutshell, the former founding editor of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), Glenn McGee, took up in December a position as President for Ethics and Strategic Initiatives at a controversial stem cell company called CellTex Therapeutics, while still editor-in-chief; he was then replaced by his wife, Summer Johnson McGee and colleague David Magnus. The result has been accusations of COI from members of the bioethics community, the resignation of well known members of the editorial board, the pulling of in-press publications, and a questioning of the integrity of a well known journal and the field of bioethics more generally.

So while the goings on of the relatively small field of bioethics may be a “tempest in a tea pot” for some (I still regularly meet colleagues who have no idea what we do in bioethics!), this case nonetheless points to the real danger that even appearances of COI can have when one’s credibility is at stake, and something that especially important in the context of academic publishing.

P.S. Mar 2: Controversial bioethicist quits stem-cell company – Nature
P.S. Mar 13: Dodgy Stem-Cell Firm CellTex tries to Bully Critical Bioethicist into Silence – Philosophical Comment
P.S. Mar 14: Celltex lawyers up – Stem Cell Treatment MonitorLest one think that COI is an issue of concern only for scientists or other health researchers who have relations with industry, the following scandal brewing in the world of academic Bioethics will provide a different impression. In a nutshell, the former founding editor of the American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), Glenn McGee, took up in December a position as President for Ethics and Strategic Initiatives at a controversial stem cell company called CellTex Therapeutics, while still editor-in-chief; he was then replaced by his wife, Summer Johnson McGee and colleague David Magnus. The result has been accusations of COI from members of the bioethics community, the resignation of well known members of the editorial board, the pulling of in-press publications, and a questioning of the integrity of a well known journal and the field of bioethics more generally.

So while the goings on of the relatively small field of bioethics may be a “tempest in a tea pot” for some (I still regularly meet colleagues who have no idea what we do in bioethics!), this case nonetheless points to the real danger that even appearances of COI can have when one’s credibility is at stake, and something that especially important in the context of academic publishing.

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