NEJM editor Drazen hit with big backlash over 'research parasites' comments
- The editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Jeffrey Drazen, has backtracked on a previous editorial he penned with deputy editor Dan Longo, after members of the research community took offense with the use of the term "research parasites."
- In the original editorial, Drazen and Longo described "research parasites" as people unrelated to original research but who use that data for their own ends, either stealing it or using it to disprove the initial study. Critics noted many scientific achievements stemmed from researchers building upon previous data and studies.
- Following the criticism, Drazen wrote a second editorial clarifying his original position and watering down his initial characterization of researchers who use data collected by others.
On Monday, Biopharma Dive published a feature article focusing on the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' new data-sharing guidelines. It noted Drazen and Longo's concern about the potential threat of "research parasites" in their editorial published along with the ICMJE guidelines.
Here is how they expressed that concern: "A second concern held by some is that a new class of research person will emerge — people who had nothing to do with the design and execution of the study but use another group’s data for their own ends...There is concern among some front-line researchers that the system will be taken over by what some researchers have characterized as “research parasites.”
Their use of the term 'research parasites' prompted strong reactions from researchers in the biopharma community, sparking social media activity with #ResearchParasites sign-offs.
Vinay K. Prasad, MD, a noted hematologist-oncologist, was one outspoken critic of Drazen's editorial. In an interview with Medscape Medical News, Dr. Prasad pilloried the editorial as being "probably the worst editorial written this year in any journal."
Dr. Prasad argued that testing another researcher's data is not a threat. Rather it is what science needs to move forward. He cites the reanalysis of the data from Genentech's Tamiflu trials which eventually demonstrated Tamiflu is only marginally effective.
Drazen quickly authored a second editorial which noticeably watered down his criticism of researchers who use data collected by others. "In the process of formulating our policy, we spoke to clinical trialists around the world...Some of them spoke pejoratively in describing data scientists who analyze the data of others...In our view, however, researchers who analyze data collected by others can substantially improve human health," Drazen wrote.