Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Assay come, assay go: Corporate takeover leads to retraction of device analysis

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A group of hematology researchers in Canada lost a publication to the merger of two medical device makers, after the acquiring company apparently decided not to pursue marketing the product in question.

An April 23 retraction notice in the International Journal of Laboratory Hematology about the article, “Enhanced flagging and improved clinical sensitivity on the new DxH 300TM Coulter® cellular analysis system,” originally published in February, tells the tale:

The following article from the International Journal of Laboratory Hematology, published online in Wiley Online Library (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-553X.2012.01411.x/abstract) on 23 February 2012 has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the Journal’s Editors, Dr Steve Kitchen and Dr Szu-Hee Lee, and Blackwell Publishing Ltd, based on the determination that the instrument listed in the paper had not been commercially released at the time of publication.

We reached Mike Keeney, the senior author on the paper, who told us that his group had agreed to conduct the analysis for Beckman Coulter when that company stood alone. But BC was bought by Danaher Corporation last year, and the new firm evidently decided not to market the DxH 300.

Danaher contacted the researchers and asked them to request a retraction, said Keeney, and they agreed.

Co-author Ben Hedley said the article had already gone live on the publisher’s website when the request came in:

The paper had been accepted for publication, the proofs sent back and the publisher … had the paper in their Early View Online very quickly and that is when we were contacted by the company about the delay in releasing the instrument. Hence the retraction notice that was printed in the journal, it is a shame as this is a good instrument.

Although Keeney acknowledged that the situation is unusual, he said the article ceased to be worth reading:

 There was no data in it that on its own had value in it. There was no going to be no product; it was going to be a pointless paper.

Hat tip: Clare Francis

Written by amarcus41

April 27th, 2012 at 9:30 am

Comments
  • YouKnowBestOfAll April 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    It all depends on HOW ONE’S INCOME IS GENERATED.

    These were the words of one of my Professors when I studied Economics during second half of the last century. And this is a universal principle.

    Since the company will not make any money from the featured in the paper device, they see no need for the paper to exist. The company is absolutely right to do so. What’s the point to promote a device which will not be marketed, i.e. will not be available for use from others?

    On the other hand, the researchers involved in that paper will not have an “extra published paper” on their belt, i.e. less opportunity for getting more grants. Pity for them, as they might be good researchers.

    This case is different type of evidence for the flaws in the current system for assessing the quality of researchers, which at present is based ONLY on the number of publications.

    For me the Moral from this story is that:
    Changing the way academics get grants can PURIFY academic publishing.

    • David Hardman April 28, 2012 at 11:14 am

      Thanks for the post. The reasons are clearer, but they do not strike me as scientific reasons, but as economic reasons. The results were in the world. It was part of reality, which is more than for many publications. Perhaps the DxH 300TM Coulter® cellular analysis system could be donated to a museum, or technical university/college and kept in working order and used from time to time. It would be an alterative assay.
      I do wonder if the retraction might not be scientific misconduct on the part of Danaher Corporation for suppressing scientific results. The Danaher Corporation should try to fix the problem, for example funding the maintence (or simply donating) of the DxH 300TM Coulter® cellular analysis system for a few years at the suggested museum, or technical university/college, not nixing the results. Many exhibits in science museums are not of economically successful models, but those that offered something new, or were iconic. “Coulter” was iconic.
      As one of the authors wrote “it is a shame as this is a good instrument”.

  • matt wartell April 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

    “The results were in the world” is a very salient point.

    The retraction is indeed peculiar because the instrument is probably not doing something otherwise unattainable. A description of enhanced tagging could be sufficient motivation for building the Amarcus41 Cellular Analysis System.

    But now we’ll not know.

  • David Hardman April 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Matt Wartell,

    I am a bit thick so I don’t get all you wrote.

    What I think is that the scientists didn’t do anything wrong, yet a first glance at the retraction might lead you to believe that. For example the bit about the machine not being available could lead you to think that it was all made up.

    I am glad that the post has cleared things up as regards the scientists, but it has suggested some other questions.

  • Bill April 30, 2012 at 6:13 am

    This seems a little harsh on the authors, who did nothing wrong. But is it really research or a “product(tm) review”??

    • Alan Parker April 30, 2012 at 7:13 am

      Bill,
      exactly. Or even an advertisement. Did the authors own the instrument, or was it loaned by the manufacturer? The leverage exerted by the latter suggests that the authors were not able to act independently. However, I have no information either way.

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