‘Complex Realities of Commercialized Science’: The Problem with Authorship

       As the creation of new drugs and their clinical trials have become commercialized to an astounding degree the problem of authorship has become more complex than many of the molecules being written about. As pharmaceutical firms increasingly outsource work to Contract Research Organizations (CRO’s), the number of people involved in a drug’s discovery increases exponentially. Moreover, as Mirowski and Van Horn discussed, many of those persons employed by CRO’s are closer to workers in an assembly line than scientists applying creative abilities; they have no fundamental claim to the formation of a new drug. The most extreme set of commercialization as it pertains to authorship may be the creation of ‘medical communications companies. These institutions are often subsidiaries of CRO’s and their function is to write ‘drafts’ of articles for medical journals detailing new research and new compounds, almost always biased towards the manufacturer. Mirowski and Van Horn note that the distribution of scientific information operates within a larger agenda of privatized research. The new system of commercialized research needs to kept close at hand, with “selective disclosure and closely controlled discussion.” Hence these ‘medical communications companies’ provide the service of controlling the discussion in the favour of the drug companies through biased reports of clinical trials. Here we have an obvious ethical dilemma where the very nature of not just the way we conduct research, but the we write, publish and read about it is being manufactured and controlled by market powers. Aside from a natural shift to a new system with motives other than expediency and profit, it is hard to see how the medical community can find a way to get ‘pure authorship’ of scientific literature 

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