Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Archive for the ‘public health/safety’ Category

“This is about saving kids’ lives:” Authors update pivotal car seat safety results

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A BMJ journal has published an updated analysis of a 2007 paper that shaped current car seat safety recommendations, which reports less conclusive findings about the safest way to install the seat.

The updated analysis follows an expression of concern the journal Injury Prevention added to the paper in June 2017, after the authors and an outside expert could not replicate the results.

The 2007 paper made a big claim: Children ages one to two years old are five times more likely to sustain serious injuries in a crash when restrained in a forward-facing car seat than a rear-facing seat.

Benjamin Hoffman, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland who was not involved in the 2007 research, told us: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Victoria Stern

December 15th, 2017 at 8:00 am

Caught Our Notice: To know if someone’s been vaccinated, just asking isn’t enough

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Via Wikimedia

Title: Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Preconception Period Among Women of Reproductive Age in Rural China – A Nationwide Study

What Caught Our Attention: When researchers set out to study hepatitis B among women in rural China, and they wanted to know if the women had been vaccinated against the virus, they simply asked them. While that can sometimes be useful, apparently it was a mistake in this case, as the reliance on patient memory injected too much doubt into these findings.  Read the rest of this entry »

Editorial board of public health journal resigns in protest

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The editorial board of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health resigned today in protest over ongoing battles involving the new editor and its handling of recent withdrawals.

We’ve covered the board’s gripes with the journal and publisher, which date back to the spring, and include appointing a new editor with industry ties without consulting the board, and withdrawing a paper by the previous editor that was critical of corporate-sponsored research with no explanation — again, without consulting the editorial board. In the en masse resignation letter dated today and submitted to Ian Bannerman, managing director at Taylor & Francis journals, which publishes the IJOEH, board member Arthur Frank writes:

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Written by Alison McCook

November 22nd, 2017 at 12:54 pm

After losing two video game-violence papers, co-author’s weapons paper is flagged

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Can seeing a weapon increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors?

A meta-analysis on the so-called “weapons effect” has been flagged with an expression of concern by a SAGE journal, after the researchers discovered errors affecting at least one of the main conclusions.

The paper found that the presence of weapons increased people’s aggressiveness, but not feelings of anger. However, the corresponding author, Arlin James Benjamin, who works at University of Arkansas–Fort Smith, told us:

we would urge considerably more caution in interpreting the impact of weapons on behavioral outcomes based on those initial re-analyses.

Last author Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at the Ohio State University (OSU), was the corresponding author on two now-retracted papers linking video games and violence. Read the rest of this entry »

Journal replaces anti-vaccine paper it retracted for missing conflicts, “number of errors”

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A journal retracted a paper about how conflicts of interest might be influencing research into the link between vaccines and autism because — wait for it — the authors failed to disclose conflicts of interest.

According to the retraction notice, the editors retracted the paper without the authors’ agreement, because the authors had a host of personal and professional interests in the field they didn’t declare, such as being associated with organizations involved in autism and vaccine safety. What’s more, the article also contained “a number of errors, and mistakes of various types that raise concerns about the validity of the conclusion.”

But now, Science and Engineering Ethics has published a new version of the article that draws similar conclusions to the retracted one, albeit with an updated conflict of interest statement, among other changes. From the abstract of the revised version: Read the rest of this entry »

Journal silently fixes emergency care paper — after misleading press coverage

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Last month, a colleague of emergency medicine doctor Daniel Waxman sent him some newly reported findings that took him by surprise. Waxman knew from the title of a press release about the recent paper — “Nearly Half of U.S. Medical Care Comes From Emergency Rooms” — that something was wrong.

Immediately I said, that’s not true. It’s just crazy.

Waxman quickly realized the mistake: The data were based only on care provided in hospitals — much of which, not surprisingly, originates from emergency departments (EDs). But the title of the paper, the abstract, and other places in the text do not specify that. What’s more,  the press release about the study says the findings relate to “all medical care.” The journal has since changed the paper, including the title, to make that distinction clear, but not provided any editorial notice indicating the text had been updated. Meanwhile, the press release and news stories about the original study continue to report the “surprising” original findings.

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Written by Alison McCook

November 14th, 2017 at 8:00 am

“A gut-wrenching experience:” Authors retract, replace JAMA paper

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When economist Jason Hockenberry looked at data comparing some of the financial issues facing different U.S. hospitals, he was surprised by what he saw.

Hockenberry was examining the effects of a recently introduced U.S. program that penalizes hospitals with relatively high rates of readmissions for certain conditions by reducing Medicare payments. Although Hockenberry expected hospitals that serve low-income and uninsured patients to have more readmissions (and therefore more penalties), he saw these so-called “safety-net hospitals” had been steadily improving their performance since the program began in 2012, and had faced fewer penalties over time.

The results were so striking, they ended up in JAMA on April 18, 2017. But within one week after publication, Hockenberry learned outside researchers had raised questions about the analysis.

The outside researchers thought the authors had incorrectly categorized some of the safety-net hospitals. After looking into their concerns, Hockenberry — based at Emory University in Atlanta — realized the analysis did contain errors that affect the findings. This week, he and his co-authors retracted the article, replacing it with a corrected version. The new paper still reports that the gap between the penalties faced by safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals is closing — but not for the reasons they initially thought.  

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Journal republishes withdrawn paper on emergency care prices, amid controversy

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The Annals of Emergency Medicine has republished a controversial paper it withdrew earlier this year which compared the cost of emergency care at different types of facilities.

Because the paper drew heavy criticism when it was originally released, the journal has published a revised version, along with several editorials and discussions between the authors and critics. One point of contention: The analysis stems from data provided by an insurance company — Blue Cross Blue Shield — which it declined to share.

The paper — originally published in February —  caught national attention (and raised concerns among some emergency care providers) when it reported the cost of treatment in emergency departments can be significantly higher than at urgent care centers, even for the same conditions. The journal withdrew the paper in spring, and re-published it Tuesday, with minor changes.

First author Vivian Ho at Rice University told us she made “slight changes”  to some headings, phrases, and the appendix, but:

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Amid legal battle, psych journal issuing caution about torture paper

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A psychology journal plans to issue an editor’s note about a controversial paper exploring what the author called “the biggest scandal to hit” the American Psychological Association (APA) in years.

The note cautions readers that the subject of the paper, published in the SAGE journal Teaching of Psychology, is part of a pending lawsuit, and that “teachers considering using the article in their classrooms” should watch for developments in the case.   Read the rest of this entry »

What should journals do when peer reviewers do not disclose potential conflicts?

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Peer reviewers, like authors, are supposed to declare any potential conflicts of interest. But what happens when they don’t?

Take this case: In a court transcript from Feb. 23, 2017, Bryan Hardin testified that he was a peer reviewer on a 2016 paper in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, which found that asbestos does not increase the risk of cancer. In the deposition, Hardin—who works at the consulting firm Veritox—also said that he has testified in asbestos litigation on behalf of automakers, such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, but said he had not disclosed these relationships to the journal.

Last year, the first author of the 2016 review withdrew a paper from another journal (by the same publisher) which concluded asbestos roofing products are safe, following several criticisms — including not disclosing the approving editor’s ties to the asbestos industry. In this latest case, the journal told us it believes the review process for the paper was up to snuff, but two outside experts we consulted said they believed Hardin’s relationships — and failure to disclose them — should give the journal pause.

We obtained a copy of the transcript from Christian Hartley, who was representing a man suing a mining company because the man developed cancer after being exposed to asbestos at work. When Hartley asked Hardin whether he had told the journal about testifying for companies involved in asbestos litigation, Hardin responded:

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