In DepthIntellectual Property

Pay up or retract? Drug survey spurs conflict

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Science  15 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6356, pp. 1085-1086
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6356.1085

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Over the past decade, public health specialist Donald Morisky of the University of California, Los Angeles, has moved aggressively to enforce his copyright on a questionnaire he developed that examines how likely it is that a patient will adhere to a recommended drug regimen. Together with a colleague, he has demanded payments of as much as tens of thousands of dollars each from hundreds of researchers who have used Morisky's scale, and threatened to force the retraction of papers if the alleged infringers don't pay. Morisky is well within his legal rights to seek the payments. But observers say Morisky's vigorous enforcement and the size of his demands stand out. At least two teams have withdrawn papers rather than pay. Other authors have resisted, questioning the ethics and legality of the requests, which one researcher has called "absurd and predatory." But Morisky says he is just trying to make sure the tool is used properly, and notes that he has allowed researchers to administer the survey more than 1 million times for free.

  • * Adam Marcus is co-founder of RetractionWatch. This story was produced under a collaboration between Science and RetractionWatch.