Conflicts of interest are not only a hot issue for health professionals, researchers and their organisations. Health and medical writers and publishers are also often entangled with industry (and I’d be the first to acknowledge that conflicts are a particularly fraught issue for freelancers like myself who receive commissions from a variety of sources).
On the issue of health and medical writers, herewith two recent snippets that may be of interest, both from emails recently sent to members of the Australasian Medical Writers Association.
• The Nucleus Group, which includes the medical communications agencies MediTech Media and Health Interactions, and the medical publisher International Medical Press, recently advertised that it is seeking a medical writer. Among the competencies sought is an “ability to interpret scientific information according to the commercial requirements”. That could, perhaps, be read a number of ways but it did ring some immediate alarm bells for me.
• AMWA members also received a note encouraging us to apply for the Luminous Award Australia 2009 which recognises “Enlightened, Intelligent and Inspiring Cancer Reporting”.
The note said: “The Luminous Award Australia recognises outstanding journalism in the field of oncology. Hosted by the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA), the Luminous Award Australia honours journalists who serve their readers/viewers by providing responsible, accurate and timely information on advances in cancer prevention, research, treatment and patient support.
The Luminous Award Australia offers a cash prize of AU$5,000 in each of two categories – print and broadcast. The Luminous Award Australia is judged by an independent panel who is represented (sic) by the following organisations:
• Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia
• Australian Medical Writers Association
• Brain Foundation
• Cancer Council Australia
• Cancer Voices Australia
• Clinical Oncological Society of Australia
• Leukaemia Foundation Australia
• National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre
• National Breast Cancer Foundation
• Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia
• The Australian Lung Foundation.”
It is only when you go to the COSA website that you discover the award is funded by Eli Lilly.
I’ve been banging on for years about the dilemmas of sponsored journalism awards (examples are here and here), but still they proliferate and still journalists apply for them. I don’t suppose there will be any shortage of applicants for the National Press Club’s health journalism awards (sponsored by Medicines Australia).