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New plagiarism allegations against sports concussion guru Paul McCrory | Concussion in sport

By on September 23, 2022 0

World-renowned concussion expert Dr Paul McCrory has been accused of 10 more cases of plagiarism, prompting experts to question how much original research the neurologist produced and whether he deserved the hundreds of thousands of dollars research grants he has received.

McCrory resigned as chairman of the influential Concussion in Sport Group (CISG) in March after the British Journal of Sports Medicine retracted one of its 2005 editorials, citing “unlawful and indefensible copyright infringement” of Professor Steve Haake’s work.

At the time, McCrory was quoted apologizing on Retraction Watch, saying his failure to attribute Haake’s work was a mistake and “not deliberate or intentional.”

That month, Guardian Australia reported new plagiarism allegations against McCrory, 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, claims to have found 10 more examples of plagiarism by McCroryincluding failing to attribute material from his own previously published work.

“Dr. McCrory produced very similar stories for 20 years, whereas, as far as I can establish, he did very little empirical or other original research at that time,” Brown said.

“If you’re saying the exact same thing on this topic as you were ten years 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 he once edited.

In one instance, Brown alleges that McCrory incorporated the work of a Washington Post reporter, without attribution, for a chapter he contributed to a book on sports concussion recovery. In another alleged example, in a paper he wrote about brain swelling after a head injury, McCrory appears to have copied snippets of text without attribution from a book on traumatic brain injury in children and adolescents.

In many cases, Brown says McCrory appears to have taken chunks of work from his previous articles and combined that work to form a new article or book chapter. None of the articles contain new original clinical research.

Having a history of frequent publication of articles is essential for researchers and scholars to obtain funding and grants to continue their research and to build their reputation.

Neurophysiologist Dr Alan Pearce, an associate professor at La Trobe University, said this makes self-plagiarism unethical in academia because it can give the impression that a researcher is constantly producing new work. .

“There is no excuse for any form of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism,” he said.

“It’s always dishonest and unethical.”

He said that research funding, both governmental and philanthropic, “does not place enough value on what is produced – for example, original research papers – but rather places value on the track record of a grants researcher”.

“So someone who has made millions of dollars, especially NHMRC [National Health and Medical Research Council] or 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 research into sports-related head injuries and policy guidance on concussions influenced by a well-connected network of a few people, including McCrory, meant new developments were slow. He thinks funding bodies should do more to make sure the money is used for original research in this area.

“In the case of a concussion, there are people who literally die because no one is able to help and the research is moving so slowly,” he said.

Dr. Chris Nowinski, chief executive and founder of the Concussion Legacy Foundation in the United States, has previously accused McCrory of misinterpreting and misrepresenting Brain Injury Research at Boston University and minimize the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the brains of retired athletes.

Nowinski said the US sports codes, to improve concussion protocols, have called for representation from experts appointed by player associations or player advocates, not just team doctors. He is pushing for similar action in Australia.

“You need a public health voice that recognizes that everything that’s happening in the [professional leagues] will influence what happens to children, and protocols and messaging need to be aligned to protect both groups,” he said.

Former Western Bulldogs player Liam Picken is assisted off the field after suffering a concussion in 2017. Photography: Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images

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 said at the time the review would be undertaken due to allegations of plagiarism and after the league was unable to answer questions about the concussion research that McCrory allegedly led for the governing body, including how players were recruited for the study and evidence. McCrory used to inform politicians. The review is in progress.

Separately, the Guardian revealed that in May 2018 McCrory had voluntarily “provided a binding undertaking to the Medical Council of Australia that he would not perform neurodiagnostic procedures, nerve conduction studies or electromyography while ‘it would not have been approved by the Council’. The AFL was unaware of this until it was made aware of the Guardian Australia engagement. McCrory did not respond to requests for comment.

Guardian Australia analysis finds that McCrory directly received at least $1,530,552 in four state-funded individual grants and scholarships through the NHMRC. He was also appointed investigator on three other group projects that received public funding.

Analysis of McCrory’s publishing history reveals little evidence of original research on concussion and traumatic brain injury. Guardian Australia could not identify any peer-reviewed publications regarding clinical studies or randomized controlled trials conducted by McCrory regarding concussions in sport. McCrory did not respond to questions about this.

In the early 2000s, McCrory was appointed as a research associate on a project investigating the cognitive and behavioral outcomes of concussions in young children, led by Professor Vicki Anderson at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Anderson said McCrory had no role in data collection or scoring, performed no data entry or analysis for the project, and received no income from the grant. Neither Anderson nor McCrory answered further questions about McCrory’s role in the study.

McCrory is also named a researcher on a 2017-2019 project conducted outside the Florey Institute, which received $1,102,245.74 through the NHMRC, studying the accumulation of CTE-related proteins in brain and brain function of concussed individuals decades after head injury. .

Professor Christopher Rowe, the lead researcher on that project, did not respond to questions about McCrory’s involvement in the project or any resulting peer-reviewed published research. McCrory also did not respond to requests for comment on the grant, but there is no indication that he personally benefited from it.

McCrory was also named the principal investigator in a randomized controlled trial that investigated the effect of acupuncture on knee pain in 2008 that received $701,120.13 in public funds. An article listing McCrory as a co-author has been published from this research, and it is unrelated to concussion.

It raises questions about how McCrory was able to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in concussion research funding when some of his only original clinical research appears to be in the area of ​​acupuncture.

The most recent grant awarded to McCrory is a $577,188.50 Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) Next Generation Clinical Researchers grant, which was awarded in 2017 and announced in a press release by the former Minister of Health. Health Greg Hunt. He must be paid in 2023.

The funding is to be used to examine the long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injury and “address the current knowledge gap about the impact of this disorder on individuals,” Hunt’s press release said at the time.

Health Department ‘concerned’ by allegations

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Aged Care said ‘the department is aware of and concerned about the allegations [of plagiarism] done about McCrory”.

“The ministry has been informed that the responsible institution is investigating the allegations and will advise on the outcome.

“Once received, the department will consider any actions that may be necessary in response to the results of the investigation. It would be inappropriate to comment on such matters prior to receiving advice from the institution.

A Florey Institute spokesperson said: “The The MRFF Next Generation Clinical Research Program is an ongoing five-year fellowship undertaken by Dr. Paul McCrory which is due to end on December 31, 2022. The grant reporting and discharge obligations regarding the scholarship have been complied with, including the submission of annual financial reports. expense reports.

“A summary of the results of the completed project and published articles will be included in the final project report.”

The institute did not respond to questions about the scope of the project or how study participants were recruited.

The Next Generation Clinical Research Program Grants are scholarships, for recipient salaries only.

An NHMRC spokesperson said all financial reports for other grants were submitted as required and reviewed and accepted by NHMRC.

“Research funding grants are awarded on the basis of rigorous and competitive peer review, with independent peer reviewers assessing applications against the assessment criteria outlined in the relevant program guidelines,” said the spokesperson.

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