Medical writers are not ghost writers!!

Someone sent me an article published in 2016 about ghost writing where at the end, a scientist stated the following: “I think major journals should discourage and eventually prevent the use of professional medical writers, and I think investigators should be required to write their own papers.

My response: Dr. Tannock’s quote reflects a common lack of understanding about the role of medical writers in scientific publication writing. Medical writers are to scientific publications as accountants are to taxes. No aspersions are cast simply because an accountant works on someone’s taxes. In fact, it means the taxes are more likely to be done correctly. The same is true when medical writers work on journal articles.

The problem arises when transparency is lacking. If medical writing assistance is used, it’s best practice to acknowledge that at the end of the manuscript. It’s up to medical writers to make sure that happens. And most of us do.

Medical writers perform a much needed function. Just because a doctor made it through medical school doesn’t mean they have the writing ability to describe their findings. After all, writing skills are rarely taught in medical school–doctors have enough to learn as it is.

Medical writers (many of whom have an advanced science degree themselves) bring expertise to publication writing. We are distinct from ghost writers in that we write things only when our work is reviewed by the contributing scientists whose papers we are writing. It’s a red flag to us when a scientific expert is not involved in approving the outline and reviewing the final manuscript.

In summary, medical writers are a group of highly educated professionals who provide an important service. We are committed to ensuring accuracy and maintaining integrity in medical communications. Dr. Tannock is simply misinformed about that issue.