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Editor,—The cri de coeur from Martin Moncrieff is timely.1 He should not be coy about being old fashioned if that is what it takes to be courteous. What he is essentially highlighting is what is universally known as the OBE, namely ‘other beggar’s efforts’, and clearly there has been a marked increase in questionnaire distribution and publications based on time consuming completion of forms by others without due acknowledgment of their input.
However, to link those justifiable complaints to criticism about the Medical Research Council (MRC) Working Party in Childhood Leukaemia cannot go by without a response from the chairman of that group. Martin’s initial problems related to a publication within theArchives on side effects of patients treated. One of the authors of the paper was from his own department, and a second member of the department was acknowledged as a member of the childhood working party, which currently consists of 41 paediatricians, paediatric haematologists and oncologists, plus statisticians and scientists representing each UK region, and the 22 principle paediatric oncology centres in the UK that treat over 90% of children with acute leukaemia. Since each centre makes its recommendation to the MRC as to who should represent it, we have always assumed that there was internal agreement and therefore have acknowledged merely membership of the working party. However, he will be delighted to hear that at a recent meeting of the Leukaemia Steering Committee of the MRC we have agreed that for the principle publication on any specific leukaemia trial, not only should there be the writing committee, which consists of the clinical and statistical coordinators of that trial, but the full membership of the working party, and all participating clinicians who have entered patients into the trial will also be acknowledged.
We are also considering issuing certificates of participation for individual clinicians and would appreciate feedback as to the value of such acknowledgment of help and participation. On the down side, with regard to acknowledgment, every year many hours of data management centre and of this chairman’s time are spent chasing individual participants who fail to complete the forms or submit them at all for analysis. Many of the same centres do receive financial assistance to employ data managers and facilitate such returns. Inevitably participation in trials is time consuming, but it has been repeatedly demonstrated to benefit particularly children with leukaemia. The working party would wish to gratefully thank all participants. We are sorry if we have been perceived as lacking courtesy, and are only too pleased to acknowledge the diligence of so many clinicians in completing clinical data for the trials.