What should be done to tackle ghostwriting in the medical literature?

PLoS Med. 2009 Feb 3;6(2):e23. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000023.


Ghostwriting occurs when someone makes substantial contributions to a manuscript without attribution or disclosure. It is considered bad publication practice in the medical sciences, and some argue it is scientific misconduct. At its extreme, medical ghostwriting involves pharmaceutical companies hiring professional writers to produce papers promoting their products but hiding those contributions and instead naming academic physicians or scientists as the authors. To improve transparency, many editors' associations and journals allow professional medical writers to contribute to the writing of papers without being listed as authors provided their role is acknowledged. This debate examines how best to tackle ghostwriting in the medical literature from the perspectives of a researcher, an editor, and the professional medical writer.

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Disclosure / ethics*
  • Editorial Policies
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic / ethics*
  • Scientific Misconduct / ethics*