I have a question pertaining to the ethics and standard practices of scientific publication in the academic community, specifically with regards to bioinformatics. Today, I received an unsolicited email from a bioinformatics services company called Accurascience, claiming that I should consider using their commercial service for my bioinformatics analysis. I browsed through their website (http://www.accurascience.com) and could not find any mention or instruction or requirement for proper citation upon publication. I was also a bit taken aback by the following: http://www.scientificspam.net/?p=55
I decided to search “Accurascience” in PubMed, which returned zero results, and then followed up with a Google search to see whether or not people were actually citing Accurascience for their analysis. No relevant hits were found in a Google search either. I then read one of the clients’ testimonials claiming that they had cited the company website in their PNAS paper (http://www.accurascience.com/customer_testimonials_2.html). After finding this PNAS paper online (http://www.pnas.org/content/111/31/11461.long), I noticed that no citation to Accurascience was actually given. Instead, the attribution of the analysis went to individual authors on the paper. —> Question: Is it really legal for people using a bioinformatics commercial service to attribute the bioinformatics work to themselves in publications? There just seems something majorly wrong with this.
I am not sure if this is a prime example of scientific misconduct or not, but I am confused as to why proper attribution wasn’t given to Accurascience in the Hu et al. PNAS paper, whether it is ethical to outsource bioinformatics analysis like this (e.g., how many more ghost authorship papers like this exist?), and finally how it could possibly be ethical in the academic community to benefit from such commercial analysis without proper attribution to the company name that provides the service.
I appreciate any input you may have.