Globalink Secret Society and its Undeclared Non-Financial Global Conflicts of Interest in Tobacco Smoking Research

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Abstract

A very serious issue submitted, on 13 Apr 2010, to the Editor-in-Chief of the BMC Public Health online journal.

QUESTION : What is the value of tobacco antismoking biomedical articles when the peer-reviewers of the manuscripts submitted to the corresponding journals are, most of the time, members (*) of the antismoking Globalink network, i .e . affiliated with the same organisation as the authors (*) ?

(*) or, because they are too busy to follow up on Globalink daily activity, colleagues of such members. The latter are this way in charge of periodically “briefing” their antismoking peers about ongoing discussions within Globalink.

RESPONSE : Such a literature is to be used as « evidence » to support smoking bans (most of the time unjustified) across the world, for the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry which generously funds in many cases (directly or indirectly), the authors, the peer-reviewers and the Globalink network itself.

NOTE : when it comes to «« waterpipe »» papers, the peer-reviewers are often chosen among the handful of « official » US-funded «« waterpipe »» antismoking experts : Wasim Maziak, Thomas Eissenberg, Alan Shihadeh (US-Syrian and US-Lebanese antismoking centres).

Homepage of Globalink (accessed 07 Feb 2009): See logos of pharmaceutical companies funding Globalink

This Knol refers to at least two manuscripts in the BMC Public Health online journal. It demonstrates that the peer-reviewers (Gilmore and Givel) of the Bryan-Jones and Chapman (tobacco smoking related) manuscript were actual members of Globalink (the world antismoking network) -and therefore sharing the same global political views on smoking as Chapman himself (who, as a detail, has also been the most influent member of the Advisory Committee of Globalink).

It also refers to another manuscript by Daniel Jackson and Paul Aveyard (*) whose “peer-reviewers” have been Wasim Maziak and Thomas Eissenberg, the latter being both active members of Globalink. These two striking examples show that the breach in peer-review ethics –as recalled on the very pages of the BMC Public Health journal – was unfortunately widespread and obviously colliding with COPE’s editorial recommendations. (*) A direct colleague of Robert West, Globalink member and influent antismoking researcher in the United Kingdom. Both are highly funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

In their responsedated 16 May 2010, the Editors of the BMC Public Health journal (Dr Patel) considered that the

“membership of Globalink did not constitute a significant conflict of interest for the reviewers”

Addendum Oct 2010. It seems that the journal has positively taken into account our observations. Its last papers on tobacco smoking, and particularly those on ““waterpipe”” (hookah, shisha, narghile), have not been peer-reviewed by Globalink members.

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Michael Givel and Anna Gilmore, two of the peer-reviewers of Katherine Bryan-Jones and Simon Chapman’s paper [1], have declared no competing interests [2]. However, they, as well as the second author, are actually members of the world antismoking Globalink organisation which counts near 6,000 activists around the world [3]. By the time the paper was published and in particular, Simon Chapman was, not only Editor-in-Chief of the Tobacco Control journal, but, also an influential (by virtue of the latter position) member of the Advisory Committee of Globalink which sets the policy of that organisation [3].

BMC Public Health has adopted an open peer-review policy implying that any link between the authors and the peer-reviewers must be disclosed [4] . Here, the nature of this link, although not financial, is not less important because of its ideological nature (antismoking).

Unfortunately, this is not the only case. There may be much more within the BMC Group and far beyond every time a manuscript on tobacco smoking is submitted a biomedical journal. Indeed, each time the corresponding Editors appear to select peer-reviewers without paying attention to their potential Globalink affiliation.

To take another example in the BMC Public Health journal, there is an article by Jackson and Aveyard in which the two peer-reviewers, Wasim Maziak and Thomas Eissenberg declared no competing interests although both are Globallink members [5][6].

Furthermore, both are affiliated with the same institution; namely, the US-funded Syrian Centre for Tobacco Studies. Once again, this is not in agreement with the BMC Public Health peer-review policy [4].

The lesson of these two cases is that being a member of the antismoking Globalink network is a notorious non-financial ideological competing interest. Editors of all biomedical journals of the world should be made aware of this complex situation (de facto an invisible global Globalink conflict of Interest) which, fortunately, only concerns manuscripts on tobacco smoking.

Perhaps the BioMed Central Group could invite the COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) –with whom it is affiliated- to issue urgent recommendations in this respect [7]. The ICMJE (International Committed of Medical Journal Editors) and the WAME (World Association of Medical Editors) could also be involved [8][9].

Thank you for your kind attention to this proposal.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Kamal Chaouachi

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References

[1] Bryan-Jones K, Chapman S. Political dynamics promoting the incremental regulation of secondhand smoke: a case study of New South Wales, Australia. BMC Public Health 2006, 6:192.Doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-192

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/6/192

[2] Givel M and Gilmore A. Peer-Reviewers of the Bryan-Jones and Chapman’s paper (Pre-publication history).

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/6/192/prepub

[3] Globalink world antismoking network.

http://www.globalink.org

[4] BMC Public Health. Publication and peer-review processes.

http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpublichealth/ifora/#peerreview

[5] Jackson D, Aveyard P. Waterpipe smoking in students: prevalence, risk factors, symptoms of addiction, and smoke intake. Evidence from one British university. BMC Public Health. 2008 May 22;8(1):174

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/8/174

[6] Maziak W and Eissenberg T. Peer-Reviewers of the Jackson and Averyard’s paper (Pre-publication history).

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/8/174/prepub

[7] COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics).COPE is “a code of conduct for editors of biomedical journals”, “a suggested code of conduct for editors to guide them towards being fair to authors, researchers, and readers”.

http://www.publicationethics.org.uk/guidelines/code

[8] ICMJE (International Committed of Medical Journal Editors). Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Writing and Editing for Biomedical Publication. Updated Oct. 2007:

http://www.icmje.org/index.html#correct

[9] WAME (World Association of Medical Editors). Publication Ethics Policies for Medical Journals.

http://www.wame.org/

Competing Interests

The author has never received financial or non-financial [1], direct or indirect, support either from pharmaceutical companies (nicotine ‘‘replacement’’ therapies and products) or from the tobacco industry.

“Dr Kamal Chaouachi has been, at times between years 2000 and 2007, an active member of the world antismoking Globalink network sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry (Pfizer in particular). This organisation counts some 6,000 members working with : ministries of health; antismoking NGOs; the World Health Organisation and its relevant bodies (TobReg, the Study Group for the Regulation of Tobacco Products; the “Tobacco Free Initiative”; the regional bureaux; etc.); the Cochrane Review Tobacco Addiction Group; etc. Globalink also maintains strong links with the main antismoking journals: “Tobacco Control” most importantly; “Nicotine and Tobacco Research”; “Addiction”; some US biomedical journals which regularly publish articles on tobacco issues, etc. Since some views expressed in the present article could perhaps be seen as influenced by such an experience, the author wishes to confirm that the whole scientific discussion exclusively relies on the available peer-reviewed world scientific literature”[2]. For more details if necessary, particularly about the first E-Letter ever posted in the author’s life (originally published in Globalink), please refer to the relevant sections of previous publications [3][4].

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[1] Enstrom J. [Reader’s Response] Using the Internet to Disclose Competing Interests. PLoS Medicine 2008 (03 Nov).

http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=read-response&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050199&ct=1#r2422

[2] Chaouachi K, Sajid KM. A critique of recent hypotheses on oral (and lung) cancer induced by water pipe (hookah, shisha, narghile) tobacco smoking. Med Hypotheses 2010; 74: 843–6.Doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2009.11.036

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2009.11.036

[3] Chaouachi K. Hookah (Shisha, Narghile) Smoking and Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS). A Critical Review of the Relevant Literature and the Public Health Consequences.Int. J. Environ.Res. Public Health 2009; 6(2):798-843.

http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=19440416

[4] Sajid KM, Chaouachi K, Mahmood R. Hookah smoking and cancer. Carcinoembryonic Antigen (CEA) levels in exclusive/ever hookah smokers. Harm Reduct J 2008 24 May;5(19). Doi:10.1186/1477-7517-5-19

http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/5/1/19/comments#304579 (Section 13)

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