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Medical School to Examine Whether Professor Published Paper Partly Written by Chemical Company

Officials at a medical school in New York State say they will investigate a faculty member who, according to internal documents released last week by a federal court in California, put his name on a paper partially ghostwritten by employees at Monsanto, the giant agricultural chemicals company based in St. Louis, Missouri.

Officials at the New York Medical College (NYMC) in Valhalla, New York, had not heard of the ghostwriting allegation until they were contacted by ScienceInsider, says Jennifer Riekert, the college’s vice president of communications. “Now that we’re aware of this, we're going to have to obtain the materials involved and learn all we can about this situation,” she says.

At issue is a 2000 paper published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.  It concluded that a review of studies of one of Monstano’s most successful products, the widely-used herbicide Roundup, showed no evidence of harmful effects on people. 

The lead author on the paper is Gary Williams, a pathologist at NYMC. His last name appears briefly in documents unsealed last week as part of a lawsuit against Monsanto by people alleging they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from exposure to Roundup and its primary ingredient, glyphosate.

The documents, including internal emails written in 2015, reveal Monsanto executives strategizing about ways to work with academic and independent scientists to get out the company’s message that glyphosate poses no risk of cancer. And they include suggestions that company officials “ghost write” portions of scientific papers to be submitted to peer-reviewed technical journals.

Claiming authorship for work done by others is considered to be a serious ethical breach in the research community, as is not disclosing potential conflicts of interest.