All individuals involved in scientific and medical research are bound to absolute intellectual integrity. The purpose of this integrity is to maintain the ethical and professional level of research, while retaining the trust of the public in medical information.
This fundamental commitment has made the status of “author” of a scientific publication particularly delicate. The status of “author” has become the primary tool for judging the researchers’ professional and academic ability. The number of publications currently determines the status of researchers in the scientific-medical community, serves as the main tool for climbing the academic ladder and is practically the only criteria used for administering research grants and the accompanying salary of the researcher.
The change in the nature of research today, necessitating collaboration between many large research groups, has created many difficulties, including the need to determine the place of every “author” in the long list of research partners. The status of “author” is not God-given. It reflects scientific and social responsibility that the author takes upon himself. Alongside professional credit and social recognition, this status also carries a commitment to accept responsibility when matters do not proceed smoothly, for example when the information provided is found to be incorrect, when the results cannot be replicated or when the conclusions that were presented are found to be exaggerated. Hence, the status of “author” accords great honor alongside heavy responsibility.
Medical research at present requires huge investments, a large share of which is provided by the pharmaceutical industry. This industry has its own agenda, which is not necessarily congruent with that of the doctor-researcher. In this harsh reality, several cases have unfortunately been documented in which commercial and financial considerations of the research funding entity prevailed over scientific truth, and, as a result, medical information was concealed from the public or distorted in order to serve the needs of the funding entity. There is therefore an urgent need to redefine the mutual relations between medical academia and the pharmaceutical industry, in order to preserve the researcher’s academic freedom. The aim of the ethical rules delineated in this document is to address some of these issues.
This is not a comprehensive document and it addresses a limited number of issues pertaining to medical publications. We feel it will be necessary to complete and update the document in the future in order to adapt it to the changing reality.
We urge all readers to read the appendix “Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals”. This important document was first published by a group of bio-medical journal editors originally known as “the Vancouver Group” that expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).
In recent years this committee published several updates to its basic document. Click here to read the latest version written in October 2004.