Does publication policy and practice compromise academic freedom?

Jon Jureidini1

1 Critical & Ethical Mental Health Research Group, University of Adelaide, 55 King William Rd, North Adelaide, 5006. jon.jureidini@sa.gov.au

There is increasing acknowledgment that contrarian views in a range of scientific fields are less likely to be published, especially in high status journals, but also in the lay media. I will argue that this state of affairs represents a constraint on academic freedom. I will illustrate my argument with examples from personal experience of writing negatively about antidepressants in children, supplemented by what others have published. Examples will include:

  • serial editorial rejection of contrarian papers (often in spite of positive peer review) that when finally published proved to be of academic significance
  • onerous demands from Journal editors causing lengthy delays in the publication process in order to attenuate editorial concerns about litigation or other adverse outcomes for the Journal
  • Journal editors exercising double standards about conflicts of interest
  • mainstream academics making threats of defamation against those who express contrarian views
  • defensive responses by universities to complaints of potential research misconduct, often associated with the withholding of information, with the rationale of protecting privacy or intellectual property
  • interventions by university legal/ risk managers that compromise timely and appropriate publication of meta-research data, for example, correspondence with Journal editors
  • journalists being prevented from presenting a contrarian view by pressure from mainstream academics.

Biography

Prof Jon Jureidini is a child psychiatrist who also trained in philosophy (PhD, Flinders University), critical appraisal (University of British Columbia) and psychotherapy (Tavistock Clinic). He heads Adelaide University’s Critical and Ethical Mental Health research group, which conducts research, teaching and advocacy in order to promote safer, more effective and more ethical research and practice in mental health; and the Paediatric Mental Health Training Unit, providing training and support to medical students GPs, allied health professionals, teachers and counsellors in non-pathologising approaches to primary care mental health.