Sunday, 16 September 2012

Further on what's Cookin' at AJOB and

I have now received conformation and independent corroboration of the rumours and signs I reported about before, which due to a number of factors I was unsure how to assess. Summer Johnson McGee has indeed stepped out of the management of the American Journal of Bioethics, and also announced that she are cutting her ties to The actual letter, or email, of resignation has now been forwarded to me and is here shown in its entirety:

From: Summer <>
Subject: Leaving AJOB
Date: 10 September 2012 2:31:21 PM CDT
Cc: " Wolpe" <>, "Robert \"Skip\" Nelson" <>, David Magnus <>

Friends of The American Journal of Bioethics and,
I want to share with all of you that Friday, September 14, 2012 will be my last day at The American Journal of Bioethics and In mid-August, I had detailed conversations with both David Magnus and the publisher about my desire to leave AJOB. I have elected also that, the blog, the weekly newsletter, and all of its social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) will no longer be owned and operated by me nor will the editorial office reside with me any longer. I have so enjoyed working with you as peers, and I owe you a succinct explanation for my departure. I firmly believe that we are right to be proud of the Journal's last twelve years, the first era of The American Journal of Bioethics.  AJOB accomplished things that no one in bioethics or publishing thought possible, least of all its editors and staff. Until a few months ago, I often said that the work I did for AJOB felt impactful and rewarding, even important. AJOB no longer feels that way to me.  Whether it is me, the field, or the journal that has changed, I know that I no longer want to lead our field's most cited journal. 
So, with thanks to those who have asked me not to depart, I feel I must leave the Journal, a decision made much easier because I know it is in the competent hands of David Magnus and the editorial staff he and I hired in the last few months.  It has been a privilege to spend the last four years working with the journal’s editorial board, authors, peer reviewers, and readers.  My departure from our journal is of course very emotional for me. AJOB has been my labor of love for a very long time. I thank each of you who contributed to that experience for me personally and professionally; your faith in the journal and in me has been unwavering and unforgettable.
I wish The American Journal of Bioethics, its current editors, editorial board, and readers the best of luck in its next era.  I bid you a fond, bittersweet, farewell.  

Summer Johnson McGee, PhD
 The bulk of the text is what is (or was) actually quoted in William Heisel's mysteriously shut down post at Reporting on health (of which you can read a web cached version here), which makes that shut down even more strange.

In any case, the text does not really throw any light on the specifics that has led to Summer's decision. Heisel, as I mentioned in my former post, has a vaguely hinted guess. And in a blog post at Psychology Today, bioethics researcher Alice Dreger offers further possible reasons for Johnson McGee to abandon ship. These, as it were, are further alleged conflict of interest cases that may have been severely manhandled by the old AJOB management, but which are not explicitly connected to the scandal around possibly pharma corrupted pain medication research, that I told about in the former posting, and more extensively in another one before.  That is, there may be yet another complex of COI problems at AJOB to which Johnson McGee (and her husband and former editor in chief, Glenn McGee) might have been connected. In this case, the connection is to clinical experiments involving drugs and prenatal diagnosis on fetuses and children with hereditary abnormalities in the sex-hormone production, which Dreger and colleagues critically assess in a very recent article. In fact, this potential problem for AJOB is connected also to members of its editorial and conflict of interest boards, as well as the editor in chief of its sibling journal AJOB Primary Research, Robert Nelson.

In any case, Dreger in her post describes in exact terms what that is about, and reports that she and a colleague have just written the new AJOB management to look at the matter with fresh eyes in light of what has recently come to pass. The ball is now in the hands of suddenly sole editor in chief, David Magnus.

As for my own worries around the integrity of AJOB, having to do with the not very sound financial ties between the former editor in chief and, things are still unclear. Nothing in Johnson McGee's letter makes any more clear how the relationship between the new AJOB management, AJOB itself and now looks like. Do any of the editors of AJOB have financial interests in that, together with the role of in the AJOB operation, provide incentives for making editorial decisions based on other grounds that those that should guide a scientific editor? This remains to be seen.