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Stanford professor tried to sue PNAS journal over 'false statements' - any lessons for us?

Discussion in 'Advocacy Projects and Campaigns' started by Sasha, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. Sasha

    Sasha Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    I just came across something in this week's New Scientist (a UK science mag) about a Stanford professor named Mark Jacobson who last year tried to sue for libel another researcher who published a critique of his climate-change work. According to TheScientist (not the New Scientist), "Jacobson is asking for $10 million and a retraction of the critical report, claiming that the journal and authors knowingly published false statements".

    Jacobson has since dropped the suit, but I thought it was interesting that he went not just after the author, but the journal.

    In relation to the PACE trial, we're faced with both The Lancet and Psychological Medicine who will not correct even such spectacular errors as fatigue and disability thresholds that fall below the level of trial entry; and now we have two BMJ journals – Archives of Disease in Childhood and BMJ Open - with very serious problems in their handling of two studies relating to children with ME (details here).

    It is astonishing to me that medical journals can fall spectacularly short in their responsibilities to correct errors or deal with serious ethical breaches in the clinical trial reports that they publish - and all without consequence.

    It seems obvious to me that, if it's big enough to dominate its field, a clinical trial with inaccurate results can kill - and can kill thousands.

    I don't understand, therefore, why failing to correct serious errors in a medical journal isn't a crime with penalties on the scale of manslaughter.

    As far as PWME are concerned, I don't know if there'd be the will or the money or the personnel to take a law suit against the journals forward - and perhaps such an attempt could backfire in terms of 'freedom of speech' arguments.

    But maybe going after the wider issue of the failure of medical journals to follow their own policies could be a goer, working with medical charities from a range of diseases and using trials such as PACE and journals such as The Lancet and the BMJ group as shocking examples.

    Wondering what your thoughts are in particular, @dave30th and @Jonathan Edwards.
    Samuel, Keela Too, Wonko and 12 others like this.
  2. Graham

    Graham Senior Member (Voting Rights)

    The problem would be getting expert witnesses to testify. I keep trying different people in the UK for one thing or another, and they keep saying that they have heard of the controversy, but are too busy to get involved. I take that as a code for "it's the old boys' network".
    Inara, Joh, Keela Too and 2 others like this.

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