Another journal refuses tobacco-sponsored research

February 28, 2010 By Thomas H. Maugh II

The online, open-access journal PLoS Medicine said this week that it will no longer accept for publication reports of research sponsored by tobacco companies. The journal joins two of its sister publications, PLoS Biology and PLoS One, in formally adopting this position, but the announcement might be viewed as self-serving in that the journal has never published such a paper. In fact, PLoS One has published only two.

The decision highlights an ongoing dispute among editors. The journal Tobacco Control does not ban industry-sponsored research, in part because it does not wish to appear biased. The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, has a similar policy, arguing that such a decision is an unacceptable form of censorship and that papers can be judged through the normal vetting process.

The editors of PLoS Medicine cited two reasons for their decision. "First, tobacco is indisputably bad for health. Half of all smokers will die of . ... Tobacco interests in research cannot have a health aim -- if they did, tobacco companies would be better off shutting down business -- and therefore health research sponsored by is essentially advertising." Since publication in open access journals like is funded by research sponsors, "we believe it would be irresponsible to act as part of the machinery that enhances the reputation of an industry producing health-harming products."

Second, "we remain concerned about the industry's long-standing attempts to distort the science of and deflect attention away from the harmful effects of smoking. ... We do not wish to provide a forum for companies' attempts to manipulate the science of tobacco's harms."

Not everyone agrees with the editors. According to Jeff Stier, associated director of the American Council on Science and Health -- not a tobacco-funded group: "By deciding to no longer allow for research funded in any part by the , they're acknowledging that they're no longer able to evaluate science. It is the very role of journals to discern between good and bad science, and they're throwing their hands up in the air and saying, 'We can't do it.'"


Related Stories

Recommended for you

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 28, 2010
I have to agree - this is a mistake. If it's bad science - SHOW that it's bad science. Require that the submitters make their *RAW* data available - but then again, shouldn't that be the rule in *ALL* fields (I'm looking at you, Climatology!) To check the work, you take their raw data, you analyze the way they apply corrections, and verify that the corrections do what they claim, and then you check the corrected data! Then the tobacco-funded researchers are just like everyone else, and the information can actually be trusted!
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2010
jamey: I almost agree with you. There is a problem though. The problem is that not every paper is subjected to the hundreds of hours it would take to completely verify it. The most rigorous journals still only ask the reviewers to see if the science fits in with acceptable norms, not to verify every claim. The result is that some papers are printed that are retracted years after they have been accepted. The most egregious example I can readily recall is the important paper linking MMR vaccinations to autism. It has caused many parents to avoid vaccinations for their kids and has caused deaths as well as serious diseases. It was just recalled last month more than a decade after its mistaken publication. I agree that everything should be checked but it is impossible to check every detail of an extensive or complex paper. Instead, they get published and are checked by the community as they can. That is why I almost agree with you but see the journal's argument also.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.