Look ma, no guidelines! Paper on unpublished fetal surgery recommendations retracted

clinperinatcoverClinics in Perinatology has a rather intriguing retraction.

The paper in question was a June 2012 review by a group of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco’s division of pediatric surgery, titled “Maternal-Fetal Surgery:  History and General Considerations.”

According to the retraction notice:

This article has been removed at the request of the Consulting Editor, Dr. Lucky Jain.

It was learned after publication that the guidelines for fetal repair of myelomeningocele that were presented as being published by the NIH were neither supplied by the NIH nor published by them. To prevent this information from being erroneously cited, the article has been removed.

That all sounds pretty strange, but there’s a good explanation. According to Skin and Allergy News, the guidelines were supposed to emerge from an NIH-sponsored panel looking at the clinical issues surrounding fetal myelomeningocele surgery:

Formal publication of these recommendations had not occurred yet but was expected before the end of 2012. The article by Dr. Hirose and his coauthors provided a preview of some of the panel’s key recommendations, including a minimum annual volume of at least five MMC repairs as well as at least 30 fetuses with MMC evaluated for surgery; strict adherence to the MOMS protocol until improvements are proven better; comprehensive counseling that includes a reflective period for families of at least 24 hours; and participation in a national registry.

So, no published guidelines, no preview. But the retraction notice certainly makes it seem as if the authors wove the NIH recommendations out of whole cloth. What is it this week with misleading retraction notices?

And in this case, was retraction really the best move? We suppose this counts as a publisher’s or journal’s error, rather than something the authors could control. And assuming the recommendations do eventually become public, the article would then be valid. Perhaps a “cold storage” solution — in which the journal withdrew the article temporarily with a notice explaining premature publication — might have been possible.

We have tried to reach the editor and the authors and will update this post if we learn more.

5 thoughts on “Look ma, no guidelines! Paper on unpublished fetal surgery recommendations retracted”

  1. Was this group “the official spokesgroup” for the NIH with respect to the guidelines? If not, is this a common occurrence in other fields? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for someone who hasn’t been designated as such to be giving a preview of reccomendations – so the authors shouldn’t be “designating themselves” and the journal should have said, “You need to wait until these guidelines come from NIH.”

  2. It does sound like the authors may have been trying to get this out early to position themselves as being the ones who published the guidelines and scoop the offical publication.

  3. Hey. Don’t know how else to contact you guys, but have you investigated editors/reviewers of journals taking submitted papers, rejecting them, and then publishing them under their own name/researcher’s names? I’ve see it happen at least once in my very short scientific career…

    1. Their e-mail addresses are given in the “About Adam Marcus” and “About Ivan Oransky” posts linked at the top of the sidebar.

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