In a 2011 letter, Collins charged that failure to disclose author’s involvement is ghostwriting or plagiarism to be handled by the Office of Research Integrity which investigates research misconduct.
Did Drs. Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci commit research misconduct?
A recent batch of internal NIH emails suggests they did by providing “advice and leadership” on a widely cited paper that did not acknowledge their involvement and dismissed a possible virus research lab accident in China. The issue? Hiding an author’s contribution to a paper is ghostwriting or plagiarism to be handled by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity (ORI), according to a 2011 letter signed by Collins, while Director of the NIH.
Following a 2010 report about multiple NIH-funded scientists who were caught publishing papers ghostwritten for them, Collins wrote the letter to confirm that the NIH does not condone the practice of scientists taking another person’s ideas without providing credit. “For example, a case of ghostwriting involving NIH-funded researchers may be appropriate for consideration as a case of plagiarism; i.e. the appropriation of another person’s idea, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit,” wrote Collins.
According to Collins’ definition of ghostwriting, emails point to undisclosed input by Collins and Fauci into a widely cited 2020 paper in Nature Medicine called “Proximal Origins.” This paper sought to dismiss the possibility of a lab accident in China for starting the pandemic.
“We do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” the paper’s authors concluded.
According to newly unredacted emails, after Collins and Fauci reviewed multiple drafts of the paper over several weeks, the study’s lead author then thanked the two for their “advice and leadership” on the paper before publishing the piece in Nature Medicine without noting their participation. After helping with the manuscript, both Collins and Fauci then cited the paper as proof of a natural origin for COVID-19—Collins in a post on the NIH Director’s blog, and Fauci during a White House pandemic briefing with President Donald Trump.
Last week, I sent copies of these unredacted emails, as well a link to Collin’s 2011 letter, and asked HHS and NIH a series of questions about how they handle evidence of ghostwriting and plagiarism as defined by Collins. Both HHS, NIH have refused to respond.
Advice and leadership
Last summer, NIH emails became public through a Freedom of Information request showing that the NIH’s Anthony Fauci held a secret teleconference on Feb. 1, 2020, with an international group of scientists to discuss whether the COVID-19 virus looked like it might have been engineered in a laboratory. “We decided on the call the situation really needed to be looked into carefully,” Fauci told USA Today.