Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elsevier*: An ethically responsible call to action

(a visit from the Library Society of the World's Cod of Ethics to the seafood pasta salad bar)

I have been waiting for all of my brilliant library colleagues to cover the Elsevier/Merck fake journal fiasco before offering my own opinion here, but the fact of the matter is that while H1N1 may not yet be an official stage 6 pandemic... this issue is.

It very well should and continue to be because this is a serious breach of ethics that is deeply disturbing to the information field.

Previously I was unaware of the Progressive Librarians Guild, which is a bit too out there even for me, but today their blog entry caught my attention because they put into words exactly what I've been thinking:

ALA and other library organizations, such as the Medical Library Association, must insist that Elsevier and its divisions reveal all covert corporate involvements in sponsored pseudo-scholarship, especially the role of MECCs (medical education and communication companies), which are paid to “ghostwrite” disingenuous articles. Elsevier must commit itself to ending such activity and must apply consistent standards of research integrity and transparency commensurate to the key role many of its fields of publication play in spheres affecting the public interest.

Is the Medical Library Association listening? Check out our new president's message today on Twitter:

If you want to print your own Cod of Ethics to take to MLA '09, please do as it isn't copyrighted. I do hope people will attend the Ethics Task Force meeting and discuss Elsevier in particular. We had quite a discussion on Medical Librarians FriendFeed since I didn't know about the task force existence before all this hit.

It is hard enough for us already to teach about the use of credible health information sources in this age of doctors polling about the use of Wikipedia and people thinking Google is an accurate and unbiased consumer health search engine.

When a Major League asterisk is next to Elsevier's name (are there other publishers at bat now?) for allegations of questionable credibility, we have to step up to the plate not only as individuals but with the voice of our professional organizations as well. This is especially crucial when Elsevier is a major sponsor of our own professional organization conference. Do we want our own individual and organizational integrity questioned by our users if we let this pass without official comment or action?