“Authors, please call us. Pretty please? OK, we’re going to retract your paper!”

dovelogoThe title of this post isn’t exactly how the one-sided conversation between the editors of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment and a group of researchers went. But it seems likely it was pretty close.

Here’s an expression of concern for “A cross-sectional study on perception of stigma by Chinese schizophrenia patients:”

Concerns were raised about the paper in an email to the Editors from a reader. The reader called into question the validity of the conclusions along with the methodology used in analyzing the statistical findings. Dove Medical Press editors have attempted on many occasions and via different methods to contact the authors of this paper. The editors sought to obtain the authors responses to the questions raised by the reader which were supported by similar concerns expressed by independent biostatisticians.

We urge the authors to contact us to address these matters as if we do not hear from them we will have little option but to retract the paper.

The original paper was published in March by researchers at Tongde Hospital, Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, Hangzhou, China.

We sympathize, of course, since we often get the silent treatment when asking authors — and editors — for more information about particular retractions.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

8 thoughts on ““Authors, please call us. Pretty please? OK, we’re going to retract your paper!””

  1. The original paper hasn’t been marked as retracted yet. And it can be seen that this paper was:
    “Received 6 September 2013, Accepted 15 October 2013”

  2. Call me old fashioned, but aren’t these the exact types of issues that are expected to be identified in the peer review process and corrected before publication? Instead of trying to contact the authors, it seems to me that this journal needs to look at what went wrong in its peer review process and fix it.

    1. Peer review is only as good as the people you can get to review for you. It does indeed sound like exactly the type of issue peer review should catch though.

      I wouldn’t say that the journal should focus on its peer review process *instead of* contacting the authors though, there’s no reason they can’t do both at the same time.

    2. Couldn’t agree any more. We have to set a limit. If there is no other serious issue with this paper, then it is unjustified.

    1. I have checked the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University web-page. Interestingly, I could not find any Psychiatry Department. And there is no link to any hospital with the name of Tongde Hospital (unless it is refered to as an Affiliated hospital)*. First red flag? There is a web-site, in English, that lists all of the staff at the medical college. I find it odd that Dove Press could not contact a dozen or so MDs there to try help them track down these authors. Finally, it is concerning that a paper will be retracted in the absence of a response. If indeed, they do eventually retract the paper, because the authors have shied away, then I hope that their retraction notice will be transparent and indicate, in detail, what these “statistical findings” are. Also, will they reveal the details of the anonymous reader and the independent biostatisticians? What I am saying is that we should not only question the authors silence (non-native English speakers could be a factor, so no confidence in taking on the fight, in English), but also the publisher’s approach. ZCMU is a public university and the Chinese Government is cracking down hard on corruption, so something is definately amiss here.
      * http://www.zjtcmiec.net/e_xwzx.asp?classid=9

      1. Thanks for these insights. My intention with sharing the pubpeer link of this paper was to encourage the reader and the biostatisticians involved in this case to share their concerns while still maintaining their anonymity. However it has yet to be commented…

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