New Page ~ Systematic Reviews

This new page contains links to resources that will get you started on preparing systematic reviews …


The MMR-Autism Connection

Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare
In a series of articles starting this week, and seven years after first looking into the MMR scare, journalist Brian Deer now shows the extent of Wakefield’s fraud and how it was perpetrated.

The  alleged MMR/autism fraud was exposed this week by the British Medical Journal. Below are the links to the main documents in this case.

The original article:
Wakefield AJ, Murch SH, Anthony A, Linnell, Casson DM, Malik M, et al. Ileal lymphoid nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet 1998;351:637-41.  Full Text

The retraction:
Retraction–Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet 2010 Feb 6;375(9713):445.

The BMJ editorial:
Godlee F, Smith J, Marcovitch H. Wakefield’s article linking MMR vaccine and autism was fraudulent [editorial]. BMJ January 5, 2011;   342:c7452.

Journalist Brian Deer’s article in the BMJ:
Deer, Brian. Secrets of the MMR scare: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed. BMJ January 5, 2011;342:c5347

Brian Deer’s blog entry:
Piltdown medicine: The missing link between MMR and autism. Jan. 6, 2011.

Globe & Mail article:
Picard A.  Medical fraud revealed in discredited vaccine-autism study. The Globe and Mail, Jan. 6, 2011.

Determination on Serious Professional Misconduct (SPM) and sanction [of] Dr Andrew Jeremy WAKEFIELD. This case is being considered by a Fitness to Practise Panel applying the General Medical Council’s Preliminary Proceedings Committee and Professional Conduct Committee (Procedure) Rules 1988. Date: 24 May 2010
Fitness to Practice Hearing – General Medical Council. Date: 28 January 2010

eTBLAST: Plagiarists beware – cybersleuths are on the case

This article by Paul Taylor was published in the Globe & Mail on March 6, 2009:

Plagiarists beware – cybersleuths are on the case
An online program can scan medical databases for cases of copying, helping journal editors ferret out dubious reports
The article is about eTBLAST, a computer program developed by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and available on the Web at

Here is an article published in Nature: Errami M, Garner H. A tale of two citations. Nature 2008 Jan 24;451(7177):397-9.  PubMed Record

From the Web site:
eTBLAST is best described as a text similarity engine rather than a keyword search engine. For most search engines, such as Google and PubMed, the user must distill their ideas down to a very few keywords, and then try a variety of combinations of them to try to get the most relevant documents. eTBLAST takes a whole paragraph, such as a scientific abstract or, say, an invention description, which usually contains hundreds of keywords, as a query. The user simply pastes in their paragraph into the text box and then submits it to the engine using the “Search” button.

eTBLAST first takes this natural language paragraph, strips it of simple words such as “the, a, of, and” and then it searches its database (Medline, Institute of Physics, US Patent database, etc.) to find those entries that match the maximum number of the remaining keywords, weighted by the frequency of each keyword in all the literature being searched. This is a compute intensive process, but when done it keeps the top 400 ‘hits’ (e.g., Medline abstracts) and then it starts the second phase of the computations. It then does a sentence by sentence alignment, which then accounts for the proximity and order of the words in the query when compared to the abstract ‘hits’. A final similarity score is computed, and then the resulting ‘hits’ are ranked and presented to the user. The ‘hits’ can be viewed in your browser, as a link.

Submitting manuscripts to biomedical journals: Common errors and helpful solutions

Here is a very helpful article from the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. For now it is available free online:

Johnson C, Green B. Submitting manuscripts to biomedical journals: Common errors and helpful solutions. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2009 Jan;32(1):1-12.
This article reviews common, but avoidable, errors that authors may make when submitting to a health care–focused, biomedical journal (eg, chiropractic, medicine, nursing, and physical therapy). As editors, we offer suggestions for improving the quality of manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals, provide suggestions for how to avoid making errors, and recommend effective writing and submission strategies. Read the full abstractPubMed Record

See also:
Green BN, Johnson CD. How to write a case report for publication. J Chiropr Med 2006; 5(2):72-82.

Green BM, Johnson CD, Adams A. Writing narrative literature reviews for peer-reviewed journals: Secrets of the trade. J Chiropr Med 2006 Fall;5(3):101-117.

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

ghost1.jpg   Here is an interesting article just published in PloS Medicine [Open Access]:

Gøtzsche PC, Kassirer JP, Woolley KL, Wager E, Jacobs A, et al. (2009) What should be done to tackle ghostwriting in the medical literature?PLoS Med 6(2): e1000023.

Background to the debate: 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.
See also Ghost authorship in industry-initiated randomised trials

Responsible Conduct of Research: online courses

This series of free online courses from Columbia University promote RCR education as a central responsibility for any institution involved in research. There are six courses:

COURSE 1: Conflicts of Interest   [Foundation Text]
COURSE 2: Mentoring    [Foundation Text]
COURSE 3: Responsible Authorship and Peer Review  [Foundation Text]
COURSE 4: Research Misconduct   [Foundation Text]
COURSE 5: Collaborative Science   [Foundation Text]
COURSE 6: Data Acquisition and Management  [Foundation Text]

Every course includes the following components: Introduction;  Case Study;   Q & A;  Annotated Case;  Foundation Text;  Resources;  Conclusion

Credits: This site was produced by the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching & Learning (CCNMTL) in collaboration with the Columbia University Center for Bioethics and the Columbia University Office for Responsible Conduct of Research.

Blogs and Listservs in Medical Education

blog.jpg  If you are interested in keeping up with what people are talking about in medical education, here is a selection of blogs and listservs to which you may wish to subscribe: