While I was down in Austin at SXSW this past week, there was a rare glimpse into the big egos that run the journal business in the world. As you may know, publishing research articles is a business, and because it involves prestigious reputations — both on the journal and academia side — there is a lot of ego involved. Lots.
So imagine if you’re sitting at the head of one of the world’s most prestigious and respected journals, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and an academic — not from Harvard or Yale, but from Lincoln Memorial University — calls you on the carpet for failing to conduct a very good peer-review on a peer-reviewed paper appearing in JAMA:
Jonathan Leo, a professor of neuroanatomy at Lincoln Memorial University, wrote a succinct and reasonably worded letter to the British Medical Journal noting that a study on the use of the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) in stroke had concluded that the drug was better than other treatments, when in fact the data supported no such claims.
He also noted that the authors had failed to disclose their ties to the drug makers Forest Laboratories.
The response from JAMA’s editor-in-chief, Catherine DeAngelis was both unprofessional and immature:
“In a conversation with us, DeAngelis was none too happy to be questioned about the dust-up with Leo.
“‘This guy is a nobody and a nothing’ she said of Leo. ‘He is trying to make a name for himself. Please call me about something important.’ She added that Leo ‘should be spending time with his students instead of doing this.’
Sorry, but when you fall down on the job like this, you deserve to be criticized. JAMA’s reviewers should’ve caught the bias in the article before publication, and had it corrected. Furthermore, the lack of disclosure about the author’s conflict of interest is exactly the kind of thing that the public will no longer stand for.
JAMA’s response is just unfathomable, but taken in the context of JAMA’s big egos, perhaps more understandable. Thankfully there are other outlets for publishing this sort of information, and researchers (and other professionals) will no longer be bullied by editors who disagree with their point of view. JAMA’s homepage makes no note of the controversy. Sticking your head underground is no longer a good enough response.
Read Mind Hack’s take on it: JAMA editors pressure antidepressant whistle blower
Read Furious Season’s take on it: JAMA Editor In Chief “Upset” At Researcher For Pushing Conflict Disclosure At Journal
Read e-Patients.net’s take on it: I Am “A Nobody & A Nothing” & I’m Proud Of It!
Read the WSJ blog entry: JAMA Editor Calls Critic a ‘Nobody and a Nothing’