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More Fake Journals From Elsevier 249

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-they're-consistent dept.
daemonburrito writes "Last week, we learned about Elsevier publishing a bogus journal for Merck. Now, several librarians say that they have uncovered an entire imprint of 'advertorial' publications. Excerpta Medica, a 'strategic medical communications agency,' is an Elsevier division. Along with the now infamous Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, it published a number of other 'journals.' Elsevier CEO Michael Hansen now admits that at least six fake journals were published for pharmaceutical companies."
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More Fake Journals From Elsevier

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  • And... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:23PM (#27889017)

    ... not a damn thing will become of it because everyone who can do anything about it is in Merck's pocket.

  • by causality (777677) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:43PM (#27889177)

    That is really a huge blow to the reputation of Elsevier... of course they publish hundreds (thousands?) of journals, so in absolute terms maybe it is not that big a deal, but still...

    I think I've heard it said this way: "It doesn't take much arsenic to poison a well."

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anpheus (908711) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:45PM (#27889191)

    The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most corrupt industries in existence today. I actually find pharmacology quite interesting, especially the idea that physical chemicals can impact the nonphysical/intangible mind.

    Nonphysical intangible mind?

    Neurochemicals, man. Read about them. Any intro to psych course includes education on what a few of the major neurochemicals do and their role in defining who "you" are.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:46PM (#27889205) Homepage Journal

    This is MAJOR fraud in the medical/pharmaceutical industry. Merck and Elsevier need to be shut completely down for this bullshit.

    Or, alternatively, start killing off Merck and Elsevier CEOs, NOW. Send the message that we will not tolerate this misleading information.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:47PM (#27889219) Homepage Journal

    Only takes one mistake to have your reputation decimated.

  • by Councilor Hart (673770) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:54PM (#27889291)
    Yes, it is a big deal.

    The problem is not that you lied to me. The problem is that I can no longer trust you.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:56PM (#27889311) Homepage

    This militates against the argument that the "imprimatur" of a publisher always adds to a journal's legitimacy.

    It sure does. Especially since Elseiver has explicitly made that argument. Here's an official Elsevier position paper on open access [elsevier.com]: "By introducing an author-pays model, Open Access risks undermining public trust in the integrity and quality of scientific publications that has been established over hundreds of years. The subscription model, where the users pay ... ensures high quality, independent peer review and prevents commercial interests from influencing decisions to publish. This critical control measure would be rmeoved in a system where the author - or indeed his/her sponsoring institution - pays."

    That gives the open access movement a big boost. [earlham.edu].

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:56PM (#27889315)

    Absolutely right. Even though Elsevier is huge and a fixture in scientific research, this is the kind of ethical breach that could lead to ruin for the company. As big as they are, the NIH is bigger and there are people there who do not appreciate these kinds of shenanigans. It is absolutely an argument for community based open-access journals. All that would have to happen is the NIH putting publication in such journals as a condition in their grants and librarians the world over would rejoice.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Saturday May 09, 2009 @12:59PM (#27889341)

    This is MAJOR fraud in the medical/pharmaceutical industry. Merck and Elsevier need to be shut completely down for this bullshit.

    Or, alternatively, start killing off Merck and Elsevier CEOs, NOW. Send the message that we will not tolerate this misleading information.

    Well, that's probably a bit extreme, but it's certainly true that lies of this magnitude can result in people being hurt or killed. This isn't a joke.

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scottv67 (731709) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:01PM (#27889353)
    That's why you have so many "designer diseases" like Restless Leg Syndrome.

    I have been diagnosed with that "designer disease", you dickwad. How did the doctor determine that I have Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)? I have had two sleep studies at a local hospital. During the studies, dozens of electrodes connected to my body monitored everything from my brain waves to the movement of my calf muscles. The summary reports from the sleep studies show that I shift between different stages of sleep much more frequently than "normal" people. While reviewing the results of the first sleep study with me, the doctor pointed to a section of the sleep stage vs. time graph and said that I moved my legs 66 times per hour and awoke 22 times per hour. I don't get restful sleep like "normal" people because my legs move while I am asleep. The sleep doc that I was working with did not fabricate those results just to sell me more Requip or Mirapex.

    Please stick your "designer disease" comment for RLS up your ass.

    Thank you,
    -Scott
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:15PM (#27889447)

    No. At the very least, this gives schools a bargaining chip when negotiating journal packages with Elsevier....

    There are few institutions which can or do afford all packages. Intead, they must choose one or the other. Like with the cable channels, the publishers aren't about to put all the "good" journals in one set and all the crap "journals" and advertisements in another.

    Some journals and, thus, packages become must-have. And journals in the other packages become sidelined. And, because journals specialize, you get the subsequent marginalization of various topics and even fields of research.

    That's on top of the veto power big business has on reearch funding. Remeber the US government may apportion grants, but since much of the money is coming from private business, it gets to select only from a subset of acceptable recipients and topics. e.g. OpenBSD: secure systems for less than the price of a cruise missile...

  • Brain drugs. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by juuri (7678) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:26PM (#27889521) Homepage

    I equate the working of drugs for the brain much like our current understanding of gravity.

    We know it works. We can reproduce it in exacting detail. We can model other experiments based upon our expectations of the way it works. But when we get down to the tiny details and questions... we have no idea exactly HOW it works.

    The modern brain chemical industry is this way. Sure we know it is hitting up the "5HT" receptors but as to why that actually causes some effects in some and differing effects in others... well... uh... yeah.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:28PM (#27889529)

    If you have a large corporation, there's no way a few individuals at the top can possibly monitor the behavior of hundreds or thousands of employees. Should a CEO go to prison because some low-level manager commits fraud? If that were the case, no-one would ever take the risk of forming and running a major business.

    Too big to jail? Corporation size could use some downward pressure.

    Based on what?

    Your expertise demonstrated by your Nobel Prize in Economics?

    Or that big stinky turd you just pulled out of your ass?

  • Re:Impact Factor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:42PM (#27889635)
    Well some of the biggest Physics frauds were published in Nature and Science. So Impact factor, which is set by a company without peer review, is not in fact a good measure of the articles in the journal. Hell IIRC Science even had a homeopathy article in it once.
  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by scottv67 (731709) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:45PM (#27889651)
    >Now I have already said that this is my personal opinion and I am not a medical practitoner.

    Great. Thanks for letting everyone know that you are not a specialist in sleep disorders. So your opinion regarding medications used to treat sleep disorders holds as much weight as my opinion on how well someone speaks French (a topic I know absolutely nothing about).

    Here is my opinion: You are still a dickwad.

    Please continue to insert your comment about RLS being a "designer disease" into the orifice I mentioned in my previous message.

    Thank you,
    -Scott
  • by mkcmkc (197982) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @01:46PM (#27889667)

    Try to find incidents of Restless Leg Syndrome (by that name or any other) prior to the advertising campaign. See for yourself how difficult that is. Then you will see that it's not some malady that has plagued mankind over the years for which we finally have a treatment.

    Having slept with someone who was tormented by this for months, I can assure you that it is quite real, whatever it is. It's possible that it was much rarer (or nonexistent) prior to 1900, but that's hardly proof that it doesn't exist now.

    Your argument was going okay until you introduced this howler...

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @02:09PM (#27889885)

    If you have a large corporation, you have a set of corporate policies in force. Some of which should prohibit fraud, conflicts of interest, and other assorted bad behavior. If it can be shown that the corporation enforces these policies and takes appropriate steps to correct and/or punish employees that violate them, then the corporation should not be held liable for their misbehavior.

    On the other hand, corporations need to be held to a higher standard than individuals in the areas of regulatory compliance. I've seen cases where violations were reduced from felonies to civil violations because the company claimed that it was 'unaware' of the actions of its employees. And yet, those employees were not punished because they were 'unaware' of the applicable law. Civil penalties were assessed and corrective actions undertaken. And then they did it again. If a company can't enforce its policies, it should have its corporate charter revoked.

  • by Toonol (1057698) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @02:16PM (#27889939)
    You're arguing against a strawman. Nobody wants to punish the innocent owner of a company that has one employee commit fraud... but the actual guilty party SHOULD be punished. Corporations aren't humans, and should neither bear nor shield anyone from responsibility for their actions.
  • PLoS; crap papers (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @02:22PM (#27889983) Homepage

    A couple of observations:

    Skeptics have throwing out a variety of reasons that open-access journals like PLoS will never work. One of those reasons is that traditional print journals have a lot of prestige, just based on their centuries of momentum. Scientists won't want to publish in upstart open-access journals, according to this argument, because nobody will take their publications seriously. Well, this scandal would seem to show that you can't trust a journal just because it comes from a centuries-old publishing house.

    The other thing to understand is that the vast majority of scientific papers are crap. They're not necessarily wrong, just utterly unimportant. Although this particular scandal has to do with the obscenely corrupt drug industry as well, it's also part of a more general problem. Science is like an Easter egg hunt where there are too many kids and not enough eggs. Everybody is trying to pad their c.v. with as many papers as possible, in order to land one of those prized research jobs. Because of this, there's been a huge proliferation of small, specialized, low-quality, expensive journals, and that's been creating a lot of problems for librarians. That's the environment in which these bogus journals were able to slip in under the radar. One solution, in my opinion, is for the big research universities to practice "grad student birth control," i.e., ending the expectation that every professor will produce 20 grad students over the course of his career, each of whom will have the same academic career as their advisor. Schools should also eliminate their weaker graduate programs, e.g., if Cal State Fresno (hypothetically) has a graduate program in Italian, but it's not in the top 100 Italian programs in the U.S., maybe they should just cut it; it's not doing anyone any good for them to be handing out some tiny number of master's degrees and pretending that their faculty are doing high-powered research.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @02:23PM (#27890001)

    I am a doctor and a commenter on Slashdot for a very long time but I will not go on record because of the hit-list drug companies compile of "hostile" doctors. Don't believe me? Go Google it. It's very real and the consequences can put your practice out of business.

    Even though physicians in the US are independent of drug companies, we're all affected by their tactics in one way or another. For a doctor to come out to expose the things that happen and take a stand is no different than an insider (whistleblower). Unfortunately, there is no laws to protect doctors in the US because the tactics used by drug companies cannot be audited. Slashdot and other communities need to take this to the highest levels of their local governments and push for something to be done. This is fraud and it endangers the lives of patients.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @02:27PM (#27890039)

    Any scientist or doctor found to have knowingly written a paper making false scientific claims in a propaganda journal should lose their academic standing. Period. Ph.D? Revoked by the granting institution. M.D? Gone. Along with his or her medical license.

    That's how the scientific and medical communities ought to fix this. Because when bogus science is published in medical journals, some innocent people needlessly die.

    Haven't thought that through, have you?

    If the "accepted wisdom" is all that's allowed to be published, no one ever would have heard of Albert Einstein.

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @02:35PM (#27890113)

    You don't have to be afraid. Just come out and say it: "I do believe in god"

    The problem with that is you then have to explain what "God" means to you. My personal concept of that is quite unlike many of the more mainstream interpretations, though (perhaps because I have studied most major religions) it will sound very much like some of them. That makes this a thorny issue that is likely to create much confusion. Really, I was content with showing the limitations of the materialist worldview and I would greatly prefer that each individual works out for themselves whether they believe in God and what "God" means to them. I have always felt that such things, in their pure form, can only be a personal quest and are not something that another man can give to you, though he may be able to show you the way of arriving at your own understanding. Nowhere in this do you find a motivation of fear, my friend.

  • Re:Brain drugs. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 09, 2009 @03:00PM (#27890305)

    "In spite of that, it's the only approach used by mainstream science."

    This is totally false. Scientific disciplines vary greatly in how much reductionism is relevant, and build models at a complexity level appropriate to the phenomenon being studied. Despite the Schrodinger equation describing the behavior of electrons around an atom, it is never used as a starting point in a discussion of neurology. Scientific understanding is built on layers of abstraction, and reductionism is useful for bridging between adjacent layers (and sometimes teaching you something new about the more complex layer!). But just because you know quantum electrodynamics does not mean you understand the Krebs cycle, despite QED governing the behavior of all the entities involved. Scientists understand this (or at least should understand this if they are paying any attention at all).

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nametaken (610866) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @03:22PM (#27890443)

    You're confusing two different discussions.

    The first is that the number of diagnosed and treated cases of RLS has gone up significantly since advertising campaigns began. The other is that RLS is diagnosed when it shouldn't be.

    It's quite possible that RLS was historically written off as blanket "sleeplessness" before. Now we're able to identify and treat it. This would be the result of a completely normal and legitimate evolution in our ability to practice medicine, not necessarily the result of us fabricating some "designer disease". Otherwise, at one time you could make identical arguments about any common affliction, claiming it's really just bad spirits, not some made-up disease.

    It's ALSO quite possible that too many people are diagnosed with RLS that don't have it. Or not. The important part is that they're two different statements, and that difference is whether or not you can infer a massive conspiracy.

  • Re:Bad Feeling (Score:4, Insightful)

    by scottv67 (731709) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @03:37PM (#27890561)
    >You have absolutely no reason to hate me

    Actually, I do have a reason: You posted a message on /. saying that you think RLS is a "designer disease". You are spreading mis-information that could potentially have a negative affect on someone who is searching the web for info on RLS. I don't want a person to read your "opinion" and think that you actually know what you are talking about.

    >for if you do that, the suffering is yours and does not affect me in the slightest.

    Do you do this passive-aggressive shit all the time? It's slightly annoying.

    >I'll give you some friendly advice.

    Free advice is often worth exactly what you pay for it...

    >calmly explain to that person why you believe they are misinformed. You may even convince them.

    I don't want to convince you that you are wrong. You are a nutcase and you are spreading mis-information that may have a negative effect on someone else's health. I suppose you are also anti-vaccination because the guvmint uses the annual flu vaccines for mind control.

    >What you're doing here, however, has no chance of working.

    And, once again, you are presenting your opinion. Personally, I think you are a douchebag and I don't care what you think will or will not work. My only concern is that your comments will harm someone else who reads them.
  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @03:50PM (#27890641)

    Skeptics have throwing out a variety of reasons that open-access journals like PLoS will never work. One of those reasons is that traditional print journals have a lot of prestige, just based on their centuries of momentum. Scientists won't want to publish in upstart open-access journals, according to this argument, because nobody will take their publications seriously. Well, this scandal would seem to show that you can't trust a journal just because it comes from a centuries-old publishing house.

    In my experience, the prestige is based on journal titles, not publisher. No one respects publications because they're carried by elsevier, they respect them because of the journal title. Not sure if nature is elsevier, but if it came out that 90% of elsevier's publications were fraud like this, researchers would still reguard Nature highly and want to publish in it.

    So no, this doesn't elevate open-access journals because it doesn't knock down the established journals.

    Science is like an Easter egg hunt where there are too many kids and not enough eggs. Everybody is trying to pad their c.v. with as many papers as possible, in order to land one of those prized research jobs. Because of this, there's been a huge proliferation of small, specialized, low-quality, expensive journals, and that's been creating a lot of problems for librarians.

    Well, I feel a little sorry for those librarians, but the other thing, the padding the CV, is one reason why employers, tenure comittees, and researchers value the higher-impact journals, and why open-access journals are going to take a while. The researchers who run the academic research system aren't yet used to thinking of open-access journals as being just as respectable as the older journals, the value system to sort out someone who has published all fluff based on journals published in will continue for at least another generation of scientists.

    Schools should also eliminate their weaker graduate programs, e.g., if Cal State Fresno (hypothetically) has a graduate program in Italian, but it's not in the top 100 Italian programs in the U.S., maybe they should just cut it; it's not doing anyone any good for them to be handing out some tiny number of master's degrees and pretending that their faculty are doing high-powered research.

    What would that solve? It might cut down on the education creep (ie a graduate degree is becoming the equivalent of a college degree a decade ago) but that's not a huge problem, and closing a program means any good researchers in the program have problems. There is actually good research coming out of graduate programs that on average are pretty mediocre.

  • Re:Brain drugs. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by m50d (797211) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @05:09PM (#27891287) Homepage Journal
    There's something else we get for it, too. Most of our recent technological advances have been engineering breakthroughs. There has been little advancement of actual understanding by comparison.

    If you're trying to contrast this against history it's simply wrong. Of course most advancement is, always has been and always will be in engineering rather than in the fundamentals - but the rate at which fundamental physics has developed has been nothing short of astonishing by historical standards.

    In my personal (unqualified) opinion, the medical industry has its own version of this. We're getting better and better at modifying the system, at obtaining desired results by the introduction of chemicals, without increasing our understanding of what disease actually is, how it originates, and how it can be prevented.

    Again, yes, the "engineering" approach of trying a known chemical and seeing what it does advances much faster than the theory - but that's not to say the fundamental work has stagnated. We genuinely do know a lot more about disease than we used to.

    Nowhere is this more obvious than in psychiatry.

    In more ways than one. While the state of fundamental understanding in psychiatry is particularly poor, we have seen a lot of genuine progress.

    My evidence for this is very simple: if we understood these things, we should have a population that is getting healthier. Instead, we have a population that increasingly depends on medications because it is becoming sicker.

    And where's your evidence for that? Life expectancy is continuing to rise (we're expecting a "fast food bump", but that's hardly the fault of medicine, and I don't believe it's happened yet), and the fact that a condition is being treated doesn't mean it didn't exist before - e.g. PTSD is often described as a modern invention, but if one looks at contemporary descriptions of WWII soldiers, one can see a lot of very similar symptoms - they simply didn't get treated. It's hard to appreciate how much better our general quality of life is than that of even 50 years ago, because we adjust to what we're used to.

  • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @05:32PM (#27891509) Homepage

    Hmmm... "Funny" isn't what I would have modded...

    But this will in a few blows make all reviews related to the companies involved basically invalid.

    And it will also cast a dark shadow over a lot of other reviews in other medical magazines.

    I would recommend editors to remove all reviews currently for Merck products as well as all reviews provided by "Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine", "Excerpta Medica" and "Elsevier" just to be on the safe side until the sources of every review from those sources can be verified. And other reviews would have to be deeply scrutinized before added too.

  • Re:Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by scottv67 (731709) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @05:51PM (#27891661)
    >I went in for bronchitis, and I came out with a prescription for a generic antibiotic, and a prescription for Prilosec.

    Mazarin5, if you use Google to search for bronchitis and acid reflux, you will find pages that mention acid reflux as a possible cause for bronchitis. It's possible that the doc who treated you thought that your bronchitis was caused by GERD or stomach acid making its way up into your esophagus. He wasn't trying to give you random pills just to make the drug rep happy. There is a connection between acid reflux and bronchitis. I am not an expert on this topic so I encourage you to do your own research with Google.
  • Poisoning The Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Saturday May 09, 2009 @08:19PM (#27892707) Journal

    Everyone who has conducted legitimate science, or expanded their medical knowledge, based on reading and/or referencing the fake journals, has been disserviced. The false information has been passed along and may continue since not all readers/users could ever be located. Science and medicine have been poisoned by this, and the damage can multiply. The publisher should print a final edition of each, containing only one article, saying that all previous work printed there is suspect at best. The problem could be somewhat mitigated if the editors of every other journal reviewed the articles they've printed to see if they contain references to those journals, and request the author(s) examine them for possible revision removing same. When the authors are no longer reachable the editors should do it.

  • Re:Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deraj123 (1225722) on Sunday May 10, 2009 @12:44AM (#27894061)
    If the doctor does this without explaining to me what he's trying and why, there's a problem. Mine's pretty forthcoming when asked questions - if yours isn't, perhaps you should find a new doctor.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.

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