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An old Italian proverb states that lies have short legs. In other words, in the end you get found out. This is exactly what happened to an Italian researcher who acted as a referee for a manuscript submitted in 2015 to Annals of Internal Medicine. After a negative report (which presumably led to the rejection of the submission) he submitted a manuscript which was essentially the same. But he and his accomplices got found out and paraded in front of the world in an earth-shatteringly polite "Dear Plagiarist" letter by the first robbed author: Dr Michael Dansinger. Dr Dansiger's letter is a model of polite logic and an ethical masterpiece, the fake article got retracted and the thief's institution contacted. No reply so far, a depressingly familiar theme in contemporary research. We wonder why we carry on with a system which is completely broken. Commercial interests, reporting bias, secrecy, ethically dubious studies and inertia are the ingredients of contemporary research and publication practices. Editorial peer review, a scholarly practice originating in a more genteel era, is clearly unable to do much other than lend a very thin veneer of credibility to this pandemic of junk which is threatening healthcare budgets and the ethics of the next generation of researchers. We need a complete reform of the system which could give back some credibility to the "e" of evidence-based medicine. Complete lawful transparency, public reimbursement of interventions only on the basis of independently generated evidence and research ethics as a part of an international curriculum for budding researchers are urgently needed. These should be linked to publishers' complete disclosure of their sources of income and custodial sentences for those who abuse positions of trust. Meanwhile, stay away from anything implausible and non-replicable (as they probably are).

Original publication




Journal article


Recenti Progressi in Medicina

Publication Date





7 - 10