The Importance of Being Reproducible: Keith Baggerly tells the Anil Potti story

For those Retraction Watch readers who have been following the case of Anil Potti — who has now retracted four papers — Keith Baggerly’s name will likely be familiar. Baggerly is the bioinformatician at M.D. Anderson in Houston who has been publicly questioning, in letters, papers, and The Cancer Letter, work by Potti et. al.

Yesterday, Baggerly gave a keynote at the Council of Science Editors meeting in Baltimore. It was a fascinating — and riveting — walk through how, after a group at M.D. Anderson asked him and his team to evaluate the Potti group’s tools for predicting whether given patients would respond to different chemotherapies, Baggerly’s group unraveled the Potti research.

In his talk, Baggerly demonstrated all of the mislabeling and other easily recognized errors his team found when they sifted through the raw data. And yet there were a number of wince-inducing moments in which Baggerly described the cool reception he had from several journals.

There have been a lot of calls recently that journals should require that authors deposit their data.  There’s none more powerful than when they come at the end of a talk showing how that could have stopped a faulty clinical trial from ever starting.

Baggerly told Retraction Watch he just wants this story to get the widest attention possible, so he was glad to allow us to post his slides. They get appropriately technical, given the crowd, but it’s worth it. You can follow a very unofficial and rough transcript at this Twitter search, since Ivan live-tweeted the talk. Or just click over to the slideshow here.

7 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Reproducible: Keith Baggerly tells the Anil Potti story”

  1. These look like the same slides, more or less, as he’s used a few times before. I found them easier to understand whilst listening to him speak to them. There’s a video of him giving a version of this talk in September 2010:

    Still requires a touch more biology knowledge than I have, but the statistics portion made sense to me (along with the facepalm moments).

  2. “We have been yelling about the science for three years…. So I find it ironic that (revelations about Potti’s fake Rhodes Scholarship) got things rolling,” said Baggerly.
    THANK GOD for honest people. What is that saying,Evil persists when good people do nothing. Imagine if Baggerly would have stopped and not pursued this thing to the end- people would have used this tainted data and then 20 years from now they would have found that the data was just lies.
    Good job Baggerly. I hope other people speak up similarly when stuff like this happens.

  3. Is “Coastal Cancer” at all related to the “Coastal” IRB that got caught in a sting [approving clearly ridiculous and unethical trials] a while back? The standards seem shockingly similar…

  4. So this dude is making a fortune as a physician now??? Wow! I am appalled at the quality of many physicians these days. Where is liability for your actions? How dare this hospital hire someone like this, and let him conduct business on other innocent patients?

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