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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Blood retracts two red cell illustrations that “could have misled” readers

with 7 comments

blood cover214Blood has retracted two 2013 illustrations of red cells by researchers from South Africa and the United States because, somewhat confusingly, they didn’t conform to the journal’s criteria for publishing such material.

Here’s the notice for one of the images, “Red blood cell and platelet interactions in healthy females during early and late pregnancy, as well as postpartum”:

The Editors retract the above-mentioned Blood Work illustration. The format of the publication did not match the Blood Work submission criteria. Blood Work is an educational tool for physicians and hematology students using photomicrographs and brief case descriptions. The purpose of the peer review process for Blood Work is identification of instructive images, not evaluation of research studies; hence description of the new research is inappropriate. In this case, the conclusions of the described case could have misled the readers of Blood and could have been misconstrued as fully vetted research results. No misconduct on the part of any of the authors was involved.

The authors did not consent to the retraction.

The authors in this case were Etheresia Pretorius, of the University of Pretoria, and a colleague, Albe C. Swanepoel.

So it went for the second notice, too, for a graphic titled “Iron alters red blood cell morphology”:

The Editors retract the above-mentioned Blood Work illustration. The format of the publication did not match the Blood Work submission criteria. Blood Work is an educational tool for physicians and hematology students using photomicrographs and brief case descriptions. The purpose of the peer review process for Blood Work is identification of instructive images, not evaluation of research studies; hence description of the new research is inappropriate. In this case, the conclusions of the described case could have misled the readers of Blood and could have been misconstrued as fully vetted research results. No misconduct on the part of any of the authors was involved.

The authors did not consent to the retraction.

Pretorius was joined on this piece by Boguslaw Lipinski, who lists his affiliation as the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard. Lipinski’s name appears on an essay on Medjugorje USA, which begins:

I am a scientist involved in research on bioelectrical phenomena in relation to health and disease. Over the years of my work I have collected a number of electronic instruments for measuring subtle electrical currents and their effects on living organisms.  It has been known for a long time that air negative ions, generated in the vicinity of flowing water and/or in evergreen woods, have beneficial effect on human health and well-being.  However, indoor air, particularly in modern buildings,  is almost completely devoid of negative ions but is rich in positive ions that give raise to annoying and potentially harmful static electricity.  Unfortunately, our research on the health effects of air ions have not generated any interest in the medical community at least in the Boston area.

Therefore, for many years my instruments were laying dormant in the basement of my home until February 1985 when I read a report by Fr.Rene Laurentin, a renown French Mariologist, on the apparitions of Our Lady in Medjugorje.  In this report Fr. Laurentin described a certain event that happened only once in the history of Marian apparitions.

One day in July 1981, when young visionaries were still gathering every evening at Podboro Hill, Vicka, one of the allege visionaries announced that the Gospa, (Mother of God)  can be touched  by everyone of about 100 people who were present there at this particular time.  Although no one  could see Her, people were flocking to the site at about 5 feet above the ground, as pointed out by Vicka, extending their hands  to reach this invisible point in the air.  It should be noted that amongst them were several secret police agents who were ordered to report on this potential anti- government activity.  When Fr. Laurentin heard about this mysterious event, he went to Medjugorje and interviewed all those who were able to “touch” the Gospa.

If Medjugorje sounds familiar to Retraction Watch readers, you may recall that it was one of the sites studied — allegedly, at least — by Dutch anthropologist Mart Bax.

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7 Responses

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  1. I am baffled by this posting! I imagine that the Journal publishes images of already described phenomena happening in blood whose mechanism is known…….and what we are seeing here had not been reported/discussed/characterised. Or, more intriguing, are the deformed red blood cells representations of the Mother of God?

    Toby

    February 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    • Yeah, as a (partially) clinical journal the ‘Blood Work’ section is basically a centerfold for hematologists, usually showing a particularly good or unusual image of a blood smear arising from a clinical evaluation with a little accompanying commentary about the pertinent features and accompanying info about the patient, like the NEJM’s images in clinical medicine- so it’s supposed to demonstrate a recognized clinical phenomenon. Novel brief findings probably should have gone in as a letter to the editor. So this is an editorial/review screwup.

      As to the religious stuff, I’ve met (and I’m sure many here have too) enough scientists/clinicians who are ‘limited domain’ odd, including a Marian in the past. As long as it doesn’t bleed over into their domain of work, it’s (usually) fine. Reporting it here just seems a little weird as it doesn’t seem to affect the work under discussion.

      Craig Smuda

      February 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm

  2. But it will bleed into their work if the belief system excludes evolution: evolution is as central to medicine as it is to the rest of biology and at some point in one’s career a “problem” will arise if one rejects evolution.

    ferniglab

    February 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

  3. The SEM images retractions make sense. They do indeed represent research findings which may or may not be the truth, and are interpretations to fit a given hypothesis. To suggest that a hypercoagulable state is a result from cell-cell interaction between erythrocytes and platelets, a reasonable scientist or clinician would need more than SEM images showing occasional RBCs in touch with platelets. Also the SEM false colouring would annoy purists.

    Chip_MoMo (@Chip_Molly)

    February 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

  4. This seems unfair on the authors. The journal accepted these images for publication in that particular section of the journal.

    The journal later decides that was a mistake. But it was the journal’s mistake – the authors shouldn’t have to suffer a retraction as a result.

    The journal could have put up a ‘note of clarification’ that it was not to be considered a peer reviewed finding.

    Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic)

    February 12, 2014 at 7:55 am

    • There is undoubtedly a backstory, which will presumably emerge, as to why the journal (or at least one individual in its power structure) took this highly unusual step of using the ‘r’ word, and really made a meal of it, since they were invited to do precisely what you state (which is normal, as per the Correspondence section of any grown-up journal). Consequently I am boycotting this journal for the reasons stated in my blog http://dbkgroup.org/why-i-am-boycotting-the-journal-blood/ and invite others to vote with their feet in a similar way. A number of considerably more highly rated journals (like NEJM and Cell) also publish such pictures – see for instance http://www.cell.com/cell_picture_show-erythrocytes – and presumably believe that their readers can judge for themselves what they mean.

      Douglas Kell (@dbkell)

      March 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm


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