Fake News and Conflicts of Interest
Our society is inundated with misinformation, much of it frivolous and of no consequence — hence the term “fake news.” Unfortunately, some of it comes from individuals or organizations with ulterior motives. As a result, we have learned to be suspicious of information gleaned from popular sources. Because it is easy to manipulate the internet, it seems prudent to keep our antennae up regarding information from this or any source. Due to the manipulation of news at a global, national and local level, our trust has been diminished — and rightfully so.
This problem is not confined to news; it has also spilled over to professional data. The New York Times reports that health care journals and professional societies have imposed stricter rules about disclosing relationships to industry after a series of scandals in which prominent physicians failed to report payments from drug companies. We expect papers published in refereed journals to be credible and unbiased, and for authors to disclose conflicts of interest. Journals (this one included) send blinded papers to experts for review. The reviewers render their opinion on the scientific validity of the article, and the journal shares the critiques so the author/s can revise the paper accordingly. Authors are also asked to disclose any conflicts of interest.
Yet recent events have called the efficacy of this approach into question. According to The Times, Craig B. Thompson, MD, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, previously had not disclosed ties to a number of companies. The fallout led to his resignation from the board of a major pharmaceutical manufacturer. The Times also notes that José Baselga, MD, chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, resigned amid reports that he failed to disclose millions in payments from health care companies in dozens of research articles.
WE HAVE LEARNED TO BE SUSPICIOUS OF INFORMATION GLEANED FROM POPULAR SOURCES
Professional journals have also been accused of sloppy review processes. In a piece about fake news, The Wall Street Journal reported on articles containing completely false information that were submitted to various journals. Of the 20 fake papers submitted, to date, seven have been accepted and four have been published.
As editor in chief of this journal, I would like to fully detail my conflicts of interest. First, I am a periodontist in full-time private practice and enjoy new patients coming through my door. Second, I have received research funding and lectured for Straumann. Third, my only relevant investment at present is a small stake in a regional online imaging and planning service for dental implants. With that said, I want to assure readers that, as a peer-reviewed journal, Decisions in Dentistry asks each author for full disclosure of any conflicts of interest. We understand the information we provide affects patient care, so we make every attempt to publish accurate, clinically relevant, and evidence-based papers that practitioners can use to deliver the best care possible. That’s our promise to you.
Thomas G. Wilson Jr., DDS
Editor in Chief
From Decisions in Dentistry. December 2018;4(12):6.