Intervening in a Federal court case involving menopausal hormone manufacturers and plaintiffs who suffered breast cancer after taking the hormones, the Public Library of Science, and the New York Times, successfully won a motion to unseal approximately 1,500 documents that demonstrate the practice of ghostwriting in academic journals (H/T The Intersection). These documents highlight a practice where articles produced by drug companies are attributed to academic researchers when published in the literature. That little voice in your head is probably screaming conflict of interest. This conduct is of a kind with the journal created solely for the publishing of research summaries or reprints of articles favorable to one company’s products.
PLoS Medicine is hosting the material on its website. They are still in the process of indexing the materials, so it will be a slog to dig through them at the moment. You can read the forthcoming editorial from that journal, as well as the documents and related court materials, online.
What I think is an interesting question is why this practice of ghostwriting has not percolated in other fields like it has in biomedicine. There are plenty of plausible hypotheses, but I’m not aware of any work done that has gotten to the bottom of this. It might point to some ways of controlling the problem in the area where it seems to be the most prevalent, and do the most damage.