Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Weighing in on “information laundering”

Interesting citation (if you scroll down to the end of a long story) in Lawrence K. Altman’s story in today’s NYT about the crisis of credibility in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals:
Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry, say Dr. Richard Smith, the former editor of BMJ, the British medical journal, and Dr. Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, also based in Britain.
Compare this passage from Smith’s “Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies” in PLoS Medicine:
“Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry”, wrote Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, in March 2004.
The Times article conflates what Horton wrote (in “The Dawn of McScience,” New York Review of Books, March 2004) with Smith’s quote from Horton’s article, to construct a single joint, indirect quote.

This started out as a post on the meme of “information laundering,” which I think is a concept with legs. But now that I’ve quoted Smith quoting Horton on “information-laundering operations,” I’m beset with curiosity as to whether I can expect to find another joint citation in the Times, something like this:
Journals have devolved into information-laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry, say Dr. Richard Smith… and Dr. Richard Horton … and Madison Guy, the blogger at Letter from Here, based in Madison, Wisconsin.
I’ll return to information laundering, but first I have to check the latest citations in the New York Times…

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