Flawed disclosure leads dental journal to retract disinfection paper

The Journal of the American Dental Association has retracted a paper it published earlier this year after learning that the author took liberties with certain “critical information” about the trial.

The article, “The Effect of Long-Term Disinfection on Clinical Contact Surfaces,” was written by Charles John Palenik, who retired as director of infection control research and services at Indiana University in 2011, according to Medscape Medical News, which first reported the story and whose earlier story had originally flagged issues in the paper to the journal.

The editor of the journal, Michael Glick, initially intended to issue an erratum and explain what went wrong with the article, but not retract the piece, Medscape reported in June.  At the time, Glick told the news service that

It has been 15 years since we had an article that rises to this level of concern.

As Medscape reported then, the erratum would have said

…that Opti-Cide3 was not included in the original experimental design — it was added at the request of the sponsor about 10 weeks after testing for the other disinfectants had been completed.

Dr. Palenik conceded to Medscape Medical News that the modification should have been described.

“This was a mistake on my part,” he said. “We modified the protocol, but protocols are modified all the time. In this case, we just had the same procedures and surfaces when we resumed testing. It was as similar as humanly possible.”

But the erratum — which was going to include a Q&A with Palenik and also disclose his relationship with the company —  never ran. Glick told Retraction Watch that the journal decided that the problems with the paper warranted retraction instead:

 We felt it was justified.

Palenik did not try to fight the move, Glick added.

According to the retraction notice:

The Journal of the American Dental Association has learned that certain critical information about an article that appeared in the May issue was not disclosed to The Journal before publication. The article, “The Effect of Long-Term Disinfection on Clinical Contact Surfaces” by Charles John Palenik, MS, PhD, MBA (JADA 2012;143[5]: 472–477), concerned a study of infection control products. Dr. Palenik, for a time, was director of research and scientific affairs for the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP), but he was not employed by OSAP when he conducted this study.

In fact, Palenik was the first person to hold that position for the group. The notice continues:

Subsequent to the publication of the article, Dr. Palenik disclosed that, to test an additional product owned by the study’s sponsor—Biotrol (Earth City, Mo.)—he had reopened the study at a time after he had concluded initial data collection. Sponsorship of the study was disclosed in the article on page 477. Dr. Palenik also disclosed, after publication of the study in JADA, that the sponsor of this study owned the data, but he stated that no data were changed or affected as a result of the sponsor’s involvement.

The addition of the data for the separately tested product, according to two independent statistical consultants, has flawed the study’s statistical methodology. In light of these revelations, which clearly reflect on the validity of this article, The Journal saw the need to inform the author that the article would be retracted. The Journal regrets any difficulties that may have resulted from the article’s publication.

JADA, as always, maintains a solid commitment to scientific integrity and depends on its authors to make full disclosure of anything that might interfere with that integrity. Its peer-review and editorial processes contain measures aimed at eliciting any issue that might unduly influence an article’s content. The editor is now reviewing The Journal’s author disclosure procedures to ensure that the process draws out all information necessary to help prevent future occurrences of this kind.

Medscape reports that Palenik received $90,000 to conduct the research.

An email to Palenik’s OSAP address bounced back.

One thought on “Flawed disclosure leads dental journal to retract disinfection paper”

  1. A very convoluted story told in a way too many words when truth is usually very simple. So, what is the bottom line? Some guy was promoting a certain product because he had 90,000 reasons to do it? Was the editor approached by the manufactures of the alternative products and “convinced” to retract?

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