World-renowned concussion expert Dr. Paul McCrory has been accused of 10 more cases of plagiarism, leading experts to question how much original research the neurologist has produced and whether he deserves the hundreds of thousands of dollars. on research grants you have received.
McCrory resigned as president of the influential Concussion in Sport Group (CISG) in March after the British Journal of Sports Medicine retracted one of his 2005 editorials, citing “illegal and indefensible copyright infringement” of Professor Steve Haake’s work.
McCrory was quoted apologizing at the time, on Retraction Watch, saying that not attributing Haake’s work was a mistake and “not deliberate or intentional”.
That month, Guardian Australia reported further allegations of plagiarism against McCrory to an honorary fellow at the prestigious Florey Institute for medical research in Melbourne. McCrory did not respond to requests for comment at the time.
Now Nick Brown, a data analyst at Linnaeus University in Sweden, alleges that he has found 10 other examples of plagiarism by McCrory, including his failure to attribute material taken from his own previously published work.
“Dr. McCrory has been churning out very similar stories for 20 years, while, as far as I’ve been able to establish, he did very little original empirical or other research in that time,” Brown said.
“If you’re saying the exact same thing on this topic as you were a decade ago, what kind of research are you doing?”
The new plagiarism allegations involve work published between 2001 and 2018. Brown says that, in most cases, McCrory appears to have recycled up to 90% of his own previously published work for publication elsewhere without attribution, including in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which once edited
In one case, Brown alleges that McCrory incorporated the work of a Washington Post reporter, without attribution, for a chapter he contributed to a book on recovery from sports concussions. In another alleged example, a paper An author on brain swelling after head injury, McCrory appears to have copied unattributed text from a book on traumatic brain injury in children and adolescents.
In many of the cases, Brown says McCrory appears to have taken pieces of work from his previous articles and combined that work to form a new article or book chapter. None of the pieces contain new and original clinical research.
Having a history of frequent article publication is key for researchers and scholars to obtain funding and grants for future research and to build their reputation.
Neurophysiologist Dr. Alan Pearce, associate professor at La Trobe University, said this makes self-plagiarism unethical in academia, as it can give the impression that a researcher is constantly churning out new work.
“There is no excuse for any form of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism,” he said.
“It’s still dishonest and unethical.”
He said research funding, both government and philanthropic, “doesn’t really put enough value on what is produced, for example, original research papers, but instead puts value on a researcher’s grant-winning track record.” .
“So someone who has made millions of dollars at, particularly, NHMRC [National Health and Medical Research Council] o Australian Research Council grants will be considered to have a better track record than someone who has published dozens of original research studies, but hasn’t won many grants.”
Pearce said a lack of funding for original sports-related head injury research and concussion policy guidelines influenced by a well-connected network of a few people, including McCrory, meant new developments were slow. . He believes that funding agencies should work harder to ensure that the money is used for original research in this field.
“In the case of concussion, there are people who literally die because no one can help and research is moving very slowly,” he said.
Dr. Chris Nowinski, CEO and founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in the US, previously accused McCrory of misrepresenting and misrepresenting Boston University Brain Injury Research and minimizing the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of retired athletes.
Nowinski said U.S. sporting codes, to improve concussion protocols, have sought representation from experts appointed by player associations or player advocates, not just team doctors. He is lobbying for similar action in Australia.
“A public health voice is needed that recognizes that no matter what happens in the [professional leagues] It will influence what happens to children, and protocols and messages need to be aligned to protect both groups,” he said.
In March, the AFL announced a comprehensive, independent review of the work of McCrory, who for years treated and diagnosed AFL players and provided concussion advice to the league.
The AFL at the time said the review would take place due to allegations of plagiarism and after the league failed to answer questions about the concussion investigation. McCrory used to inform the policies. The review is in progress.
Separately, The Guardian revealed that, in May 2018, McCrory voluntarily “committed to comply with the Medical Board of Australia that he will not perform neurodiagnostic procedures, nerve conduction studies or electromyography until approved by the Board.” The AFL was not aware of this until informed of the compromise by Guardian Australia. McCrory did not respond to requests for comment.
Guardian Australia analysis reveals that McCrory has directly received at least $1,530,552 in four publicly funded individual grants and scholarships through the NHMRC. He has also been appointed as a researcher in three other projects of the group that received public funding.
Analysis of McCrory’s editorial history reveals little evidence of original research on concussions and head injuries. Guardian Australia was unable to identify peer-reviewed publications related to McCrory-led clinical studies or randomized controlled trials related to concussion in sport. McCrory did not respond to questions about this.
In the early 2000s, McCrory was appointed Research Associate on a project looking at cognitive and behavioral outcomes of concussion in young children, led by Professor Vicki Anderson at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
Anderson said that McCrory had no role in collecting or qualifying the data, nor did he perform any data entry or analysis for the project, and received no income from the grant. Neither Anderson nor McCrory responded to further questions about McCrory’s role in the study.
McCrory is also named as an investigator on a 2017-2019 project conducted by the Florey Institute, which received $1,102,245.74 through the NHMRC, studying the accumulation of CTE-linked proteins in the brain and brain function of people with multiple concussions. decades after a head injury. .
Professor Christopher Rowe, the principal investigator on that project, did not respond to questions about McCrory’s involvement in the project or any peer-reviewed published research that resulted from it. McCrory also did not respond to requests for comment on this grant, but there is no indication that he personally benefited from it.
McCrory was also named principal investigator on a 2008 randomized controlled trial studying the effect of acupuncture on knee pain that received $701,120.13 in public funding. An article was published from this research that includes McCrory as a co-author and has no connection to the concussion.
This raises questions about how McCrory was able to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for concussion research when some of his only original clinical research appears to be in the area of acupuncture.
The most recent grant to McCrory is a Medical Research Fund for the Future (MRFF) Next Generation Clinical Investigator Grant of $577,188.50, which was awarded in 2017 and was announced in a press release from the former minister. of health Greg Hunt. It should be recognized in 2023.
The funds will be used to examine the long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injury and “close the current knowledge gap about the impact of this disorder on people,” Hunt’s news release said at the time.
Department of health concerned about complaints
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Aging Care said that “the department is aware of and concerned about the allegations. [of plagiarism] done about McCrory.”
“The department has been informed that the responsible institution is investigating the allegations and will provide advice on the results.
“Once received, the department will consider any action that may be necessary in response to the results of the investigation. It would be inappropriate to comment on these matters before receiving advice from the institution.”
A spokesperson for the Florey Institute said: “The The MRFF Next Generation Clinical Investigators Program is a five-year ongoing fellowship conducted by Dr. Paul McCrory that will end on December 31, 2022. Grant-related obligations for reporting and clearances have been met fellowship-related, including annual reporting. financial expense reports.
“A summary of completed project results and published documents will be included in the final project report.”
The institute did not respond to questions about the scope of the project or how participants were recruited for the studies.
The Next Generation Clinical Investigator Program grants are scholarships for recipients’ salaries only.
A NHMRC spokesperson said that all financial reports for the other grants had been submitted as required and reviewed and accepted by NHMRC.
“Research funding grants are awarded based on rigorous and competitive peer review with independent reviewers who assess applications against the evaluation criteria outlined in the relevant scheme guidelines,” the spokesperson said.
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