Publish or perish is probably still good advice for researchers who wish to keep getting grants and tenure at major universities and medical centers. Of course, the pharmaceutical industry sponsors a lot of this research as well as the publication of the results in the scientific literature.

Pharmalot — the blog of the Newark Star Ledger — recently posted results from a Thomson Scientific study purporting to measure the leading organizations sponsoring publications in the medical literature. The report is titled “Who is Making the Biggest Splash” and the Pharmalot post is titled “Glaxo Scientists Are The Brainiest.”

Thomson looks at the number of papers published and also rates the quality of each paper to come up with a score for the organization that sponsored the publication of the paper. Here’s what Thomspn says:

The international pharmaceutical industry is among the most important sponsors of scientific research, so it is understandable that some of the most widely published authors of scientific articles are affiliated with, or sponsored by, pharmaceutical companies.

In this quarterly review of the scientific literature on drugs and therapies, Thomson Scientific has assessed the quantity and quality of the materials published by pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and other non-commercial bodies in the last three months to identify which organization has made the biggest splash.

You should first note that Thomson is not just rating papers published by scientists working within drug companies. Also included are papers written by scientists sponsored by or affiliated with pharmaceutical companies. To say, therefore, that Glaxo has the brainiest scientists is not accurate. At best you might say they use the brainiest scientists as hired agents.

But you don’t have to be very brainy to get a scientific paper published. There are many non-peer reviewed journals out there that will be happy to publish a paper for a fee.

This is something I know a little bit about because I once worked for a small medical communications company that did ghost writing for pharmaceutical companies. Often, the company helped pharmaceutical clients to find physicians who would put their names on the papers — sometimes, the pharma companies would recommend physicians. Medical writers would do all the writing and the company would take on the responsibility of getting the papers published in a journal. Most often, these would NOT be peer reviewed journals. The medcomm company even developed a methodology for tracking how influential the articles were by counting how often the articles were cited by other articles.

Thomson Scientific bought this small medcomm company and its methodology, which I am sure is the basis of it’s “big splash” report.

So before you believe everything you read in blogs — or in medical journals — you better look under the hood. Unfortunately, Pharmalot and other blogs in the Pharma Blogosphere these days seem to be more concerned with the quantity of their posts rather than the quality! Perhaps we need a methodology for rating blog publications!