Write Science Better. Is medical writing assistance ethical?
Medical writers are asked this question several times, “A medical writer is a ghostwriter, right?”
The answer is, “Wrong!”
Medical writing is not synonymous with ghostwriting.
What is a ghostwriter? When someone writes the paper but his contribution is not mentioned anywhere in the publication, such a writer is termed as a ghostwriter. They have contributed to it but their contribution is not obvious.
A professional medical writer is not synonymous with a ghostwriter. Professional medical writing is considered ethical while ghostwriting is considered unethical by most scientific publishers. This is because of the lack of transparency in ghostwriting.
When there is transparency about the contributions made by professional medical writers to the research and publication, most journals and editors do not find it unethical. It is usually both legal and ethical to hire a professional medical writer to enhance the quality of the writing and to prepare a manuscript for timely submission.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) is an international organization of journal editors. In its recommendations for standardizing the ethics, preparation and formatting of manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals, the ICMJE requires authors to acknowledge the contributions made by the medical writer.
“A medical writer who is not acknowledged remains a ghostwriter.” Read more about the difference between professional medical writing and ghostwriting.
Das N, Das S. Hiring a professional medical writer: is it equivalent to ghostwriting? Biochem Med (Zagreb). 2014;24(1):19-24. Published 2014 Feb 15. doi:10.11613/BM.2014.004