Two weeks ago, we covered the retraction of a PLoS ONE paper on mindfulness following criticism — dating back to 2017 — by James Coyne. At the time, the corresponding author, Maria Hunink, of Erasmus and Harvard, had not responded to a request for comment. Hunink responded late last week, saying that she had been on vacation, and with her permission we are posting her comments — including a correction she and her co-authors had originally drafted –here in the spirit of what she called “a fair and open discussion on Retraction Watch.”
We sent an email to PLoS ONE in response to their intention to retract our paper explaining why we disagree with retraction but it seems they did not change their statement and went ahead with retraction. We suggested that discussing the methodological issues is a more rational approach and beneficial than retraction but received no response.
In spite of its methodological limitations, we feel the paper is a valuable contribution.
Three points are made in the retraction statement: 1) the assignment of an editor with a shared affiliation; 2) the limitation of the methods used; 3) the conflict of interest statement:
- About the assignment of an academic editor with a shared affiliation: We were unaware of who the academic editor was and that he/she had a shared affiliation. We can see the point that such a shared affiliation should be avoided, but the assignment of an editor is the responsibility of the journal and the editors, not the responsibility of the authors.
- We agree that methodologically the best would have been to meta-analyze the original data from each of the RCT’s. We were open and upfront about the issue of double counting with our approach from the start and made this explicit. The reviewer accepted our method of dealing with the double counting. We did what the editors asked and wrote a correction to make it even more explicit than it already was. We elaborated on the limitation of our approach and provided additional analyses in a Correction statement sent to PLoS ONE on Nov 14, 2018 which was not published. Our correction statement showed that our pooled results are consistent with the range of results published in the original meta-analyses. Furthermore, we pointed out that 2 outcomes (stress and quality of life) were not affected by double counting. For the outcomes depression and physical functioning only 1 RCT was double counted and for anxiety only 3 RCTs were double counted. Thus, even though our approach has limitations, the conclusions are justified by the data.
- In an email, PLoS ONE indicated that the conflict of interest issue was not the reason for retraction. Nevertheless, it was still prominently stated in the retraction statement.
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