This week's issue of Science carries a letter from IBM presenting its side of an ongoing controversy triggered when an occupational medicine journal refused to publish a study reporting high cancer mortality in workers at the computer firm's semiconductor plants.
Last month, other researchers who were slated to contribute to a November issue of Clinics in Occupational and Environmental Medicine withdrew their submissions in protest over the Elsevier publication's refusal to include the article by Richard Clapp.
IBM spokesperson Chris Andrews told
Andrews added that Clapp signed a confidentiality agreement as part of the court case, and publishing this paper would violate the terms of that agreement.
In IBM's letter to Science, Scott R. Brooks responds to the journal's May 14 article about the controversy, saying that Clapp's data are “incomplete and inadequate for reliable study,” and that
Brooks writes that IBM has been funding its own mortality and cancer incidence study since 1999, headed by researchers at the University of Alabama and Harvard. Alabama's Elizabeth Delzell confirmed to
IBM also declined
“I have never been an expert witness in my entire career,” he said.
He added that the journal itself is not peer-reviewed, but as guest editor, he was told to “review” articles, so he asked all contributors to review each others' papers before submitting them to the journal. “It was a less formal process,” he said.
Indeed, in a response to IBM's letter, the author of the May 14
Robert Harrison, of the University of California, San Francisco, who was slated to contribute an article on medical monitoring to the November issue of
He said that he did not believe that data obtained in the context of litigation represented a “fatal conflict,” and argued that IBM should let people see Clapp's study so they can decide what is fair for themselves.
“What is IBM afraid of with the publication of Dr. Clapp's article?” he asked.
“The decisions to disallow the testimony and to shield the work behind a gag order may have served the cause of justice, but the scientific community and the public have been prevented from reaching their own conclusions about an important matter,” he writes.
As for Clapp, he said that, as far as he knows, the data he received from IBM were close to 100% complete, and that Alabama's Delzell published a previous article using the same dataset.
He added that his lawyers argue that he can release the data without violating the terms of the confidentiality agreement, and two on-line, peer-reviewed journals have requested his article, along with at least one other print journal.
However, he told
Elsevier has not yet made a decision regarding what they will include in the November issue of