This week, Dr Blumsohn, who now has quite a following (currently 53 on the Healthcare100 hit parade) for his Scientific Misconduct Blog, posted about the lack of response to a letter he wrote in 2005 to the UK Association of University Teachers (AUT), which later merged with another organization to form the University and Colleges Union (UCU). He also noted that the UCU has failed to respond for an even longer time to the case of a faculty member at another university who was dismissed apparently after her research (about the politically controversial topic of the characteristics of people seeking asylum in the UK) was found to be “incompatible” with that university. It is unclear why the UCU has ignored two cases in which universities sacrificed their faculty members’ academic freedom to avoid offending the powerful. It is disgraceful that the case of Dr Blumsohn has never been publicly revisited at the University of Sheffield, and never been investigated by any academic or medical organization.
What befell Dr Blumsohn has been a continuing motivation for us to at Health Care Renewal. Sadly, it is hardly the only case of medical and health care academics who suffered because because what they said or wrote, no matter how true, offended those in power. Credible medical and clinical science will not long survive when scientists cannot draw conclusions that threaten vested interests. Academic medicine’s credibility will not long survive in the absence of academic freedom.