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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Paper by fake cardiologist retracted

with 9 comments

j patient safetyRetraction Watch readers may recall the case of William Hamman, the United Airlines pilot who claimed to be a cardiologist until the Associated Press uncovered him in late 2010. Hamman had published at least six papers, and since the revelations has had one retraction and one erratum, by our count.

Now comes another retraction, in the Journal of Patient Safety. Here’s the (paywalled) notice, signed by journal editor Charles Denham:

To Our Readers:

In its September 2010 issue, volume 6, issue 3, the Journal of Patient Safety published an article, ‘‘Understanding Interdisciplinary Healthcare Teams: Using Simulation Design Processes From the Air Carrier Advanced Qualification Program (AQP) to Identify and Train Critical Teamwork Skills,’’ submitted by William Hamman, Jeff Beaubein, and Beth Beaudin-Seiler. The professional credentials and academic affiliations listed by the authors gave no indication of any challenges. Peer review had uncovered no potentially serious issues. Then, in mid-December 2010, it was publicly revealed that William Hamman, the corresponding author, is not a physician and does not hold the PhD degree he claimed. Mr. Hamman had been falsely representing his academic qualifications to granting agencies, health care organizations, and publications for the last 15 years. The Journal of Patient Safety, like the other journals that have published work from Mr. Hamman, had to retract the article.

Retraction is a serious sanction to impose on a team of co-authors. In the present case, the other authors’ credentials are perfectly legitimate and their future publication submissions will be considered in the same fashion as any other qualified authors. To the Journal’s understanding, Mr. Hamman’s co-authors were unaware of the inaccuracies of his credentials. However, due to the serious nature of the false representation of Mr. Hamman, the Journal of Patient Safety has no choice other than to issue a retraction of our article.

The paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Hamman and his colleagues have another study in the same journal, published a year earlier: “Using in situ simulation to identify and resolve latent environmental threats to patient safety: case study involving a labor and delivery ward.” That one, in which Hamman also claims an MD and PhD, does not appear to have been retracted.

The fact that Hamman’s misdeeds — reminiscent, as we’ve noted, of Frank Abagnale Jr., of Catch Me If You Can fame — ensnared unknowing co-authors is a good reminder of the collateral damage that misconduct can cause.

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9 Responses

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  1. this one makes my day! :-)

    honestscientist

    February 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

  2. Is the scientific work reported incorrect? No, evidently. Then I do not see why a scientific paper has to be retracted if a co-author identifies himself/herself with fake credentials. Can a co-author not use a pseudonym? “ABC, M.D.” could be a pseudonym for “ABC”.

    Akhlesh

    February 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    • I agree in principle but this guy has probably used the papers he published to give his fake credentials an aura of credibility. Why check his diploma when the paper states he is an M.D.? Just like people who publish in “Science and Nature” (one journal) can claim in their resume that they are widely published in top class journals including Science and Nature.

      chirality

      February 27, 2013 at 3:03 am

  3. Sounds like the story of William Hamman will just keep repeating itself with a retraction every year.

  4. The truly sad part: The aviation industry could teach the medical profession a lot about teamwork and error reduction. Medical and aviation professionals should be actively reaching out to each other. Unfortunately, someone in either profession who lies about credentials belongs in neither one.

    drjuliebug

    February 26, 2013 at 10:06 pm

  5. I personally dislike when journals (typically medical) ask for/print author credentials. I really don’t see how the presence of absence of a degree should play any role at all in the editorial or peer review processes. And I do sort of enjoy the premature dear Dr. ___ e-mails from the typical journal. I can understand that a person with a publication history in a technique might be trustable to some folks, but the mere presence or absence of a PhD/MD/DVM/RN etc. shouldn’t make someone believable. “The professional credentials and academic affiliations listed by the authors gave no indication of any challenges.” This suggests that credentials are considered in publication. which is sort of ridiculous.

    QAQ

    February 27, 2013 at 1:37 am

    • Academic Scientific Research has its rules, it is based on trust, a trust shared between the players of this game. And trust is based on truth. If you do not want to play this game, we don’t say that your findings couldn’t be interesting, but you have to publish your work elsewhere than in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, such as in your blog, or in an open-access non-peer reviewed journal. Second point, a PhD is not just a degree, it’s particular degree which is offered to someone having contributed to produce new knowledge, accepted as it by his scientific peers in his field. To get a PhD to need first to follow endless studies at University (5 years studies after high school) to acquire the knowledge base of a field and to acquire the scientific way of thinking which has its own rules (other way of thinking is not science!). Then, you enter into a PhD program, and after 3-5 years of hard labor scientific research in a laboratory, you can hope get this degree. Therefore, I cannot understand how someone having no degrre, having a bachelor, licence degree, or even a master degree could seriously pretent to be an independant researcher, working alone in his garage with his own facilities and technology? All of this is also true for physicians. How can you report a clinical observation in a medical journal if you are not physician? And to be a physician, you need also to follow endless studies to get a degree, the Medical Doctorate degree.
      Scientific and Medical Journals have to check if people submitting a finding are serious and have the minimum ability to report observation. And checking authors’degrees is just right (but not enough!).

      honestscientist

      February 28, 2013 at 10:18 am

      • I agree that academia should have rules and clearly this guy was in the wrong and deserved retraction. I, personally, dislike one of the rules. I’m quite aware of what is required to obtain PhDs and MDs, as I am in the middle of completing both degrees. However, I argue that, in publishing, degrees shouldn’t be considered. Of course we should be critical of garage science. This is why journals often ask for affiliations, require ethical approvals, etc. However, there is a wide range of quality of folks who have degrees next to their names. I dislike that the journal implied (at least in my reading) that because the person had these credentials, we trusted him to some extent. Simply having an MD or PhD does not mean that your paper is good enough to publish (or better than someone’s without those degrees). Further, I can think of several instances where people might not have degrees next to their names but might be very qualified (grad student, someone with long experience in field). In fact, I personally have never been asked for a list of degrees when publishing in medium impact factor journals (and don’t believe that the Nature/Science/Cells of the world do either, although I could be wrong). Rather, if you are able to contribute something that an editor and a few peer reviewers deem high quality, that accomplishment in and of itself, without regard for degrees, should be sufficient. If something is to be considered as a qualification, it should be your publication history in that area, where you can demonstrate through association with people of repute that you have gained the expertise to publish responsibly.

        QAQ

        March 3, 2013 at 3:36 pm

        • I agree with QAQ. Degrees are irrelevant to scientific literature. Neither Newton nor Maxwell had doctorates. Several Nobel-Prizewinners (in sciences) did not have doctorates. All that should matter are quality (accuracy, adequacy, originality, novelty, etc.) and ethical acquisition and analysis of data.

          Akhlesh

          March 9, 2013 at 9:13 am


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