Dear NEJM

After your terribly judged piece on research parasites, it was inevitable that you would have to apologize, though a retraction would have been better.

Here’s the thing – you came so close!  You came so close to making your apology meaningful!  Paragraphs one and three are just perfect and I cannot find a single thing I disagree with.  Those paragraphs are great.  The one in the middle?  Not so great…

Here is a reminder of what you said:

In the process of formulating our policy, we spoke to clinical trialists around the world. Many were concerned that data sharing would require them to commit scarce resources with little direct benefit. Some of them spoke pejoratively in describing data scientists who analyze the data of others.3 To make data sharing successful, it is important to acknowledge and air those concerns.3In our view, however, researchers who analyze data collected by others can substantially improve human health.

First of all, there was no indication in the original piece that when you referred to data scientists as “research parasites” that you were simply reflecting the concerns of others.  However, what’s really wrong with the above paragraph is that you do not say that those concerns should be tackled, that they should be rebutted, with evidence where appropriate; no – you simply say they should be acknowledged and aired.  Well let me just say that there are a lot of pejorative opinions expressed by humanity, on the internet and otherwise, and a large number of those definitely do not deserve to be acknowledged or aired.

If you genuinely feel, as you state, that data scientists make a valuable contribution, then you need to go back to those clinical trialists, the ones with the pejorative opinions, and say “I acknowledge your opinion, but you are wrong”.

Instead, you wrote an editorial that justified them.  Please make this right

Cheers

Mick