“Wide differences in the memories” prompt expression of concern for Poldermans paper

EHJThe European Heart Journal has issued an expression of concern for a 2014 2001 paper by Don Poldermans, the Dutch heart researcher who stepped down from his post at Erasmus University after being accused of misconduct.

The article, “Bisoprolol reduces cardiac death and myocardial infarction in high-risk patients as long as 2 years after successful major vascular surgery,” appeared in July and reported data from the DECREASE trial. Poldermans, who left Erasmus in 2011, has acknowledged failing to receive informed consent from some patients in one phase of the DECREASE study but denied having fabricated results.

According to the notice:

The first author of this paper has been discharged from Erasmus University because of allegations of scientific misconduct. The Investigative Committee of Academic Integrity of Erasmus University looked into possible breaches of academic integrity.

They published their assessement of the DECREASE trial on July 25, 2014 (http://www.erasmusmc.nl/1172194/2014/4771610) and concluded: “With regard to the conduct of the DECREASE-1 study, the written documentation of the research process is largely lacking. … There were wide differences in the memories of those involved regarding the way in which outcomes had been determined … Similar to the first author … (Dr Poldermans), the last author claimed that these determinations were made in accordance with the stipulations defined in the protocol … The members of the adverse event committee cannot confirm this. “Regarding the decision to prematurely terminate the DECREASE-1 …, the Committee finds that this decision was not taken by the safety committee, as suggested in the publication …, but by the 3 members of the executive board of the steering committee ….” “On the basis of these findings, the Committee is unable to confirm or dispel doubts about neither the care with which the DECREASE-1 study was conducted – and thus about the study’s integrity – nor about the reliability of its results.”

The editors of the European Heart Journal therefore decided to place an expression of concern related to this paper to inform their readers appropriately.

The paper has been cited 125 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

While several of Poldermans’ papers have been subjected to expressions of concern, we’re aware of just one retraction so far.

2 thoughts on ““Wide differences in the memories” prompt expression of concern for Poldermans paper”

  1. The more expressions of concern are posted, the less I like them. The correction notes boils down to: we don’t trust the findings. Probably, you shouldn’t either. So it sounds to me like the journal really wanted to retract the article. But why didn’t they?

    By the way, I think the last sentence of the second paragraph of the expression of concern is meant to say “either… or” rather than “neither… nor”.

    1. Lar, actually I find myself agreeing with your comment, even though I have often claimed that we need more expressions of concern (EoSs) relative to nothing at all. In Portuguese, we would say, it’s either fish, or it’s meat, implying that there is actually nothing in between. Thus, in this case, an EoS actually represents a luke-warm spanking, and thus a noisy pollution of the publishing waters. It’s almost as if the error is too weak to be a retraction, but too strong to be left in peace (or in one piece). I believe that so many papers most likely need an EoS, and in some cases, where there are so many errors, even if minor, that would also merit an EoS, but not so much about the authors, but about the publisher. Once again, I wish to emphasize how the publishers are aggressively focusing of the “evils” of scientists, but WHO is focusing on the “evils” of the publishers? So, if we detect papers that have let’s say in excess of 10 minor errors that should have been detected during the proofing stage, then shouldn’t this merit an EoC about the publisher (an upgrade from a corrigendum) to read: “The publisher wishes to apologize for the following errors not detected during peer review and production processes”, then listing the exact errors and the corresponding corrections. In many Springer plant science journals, I have found so many papers with reams of errors, albeit minor ones, that should make us concerned not only about the authors, but more importantly about the publishers, especially since we hold them to high standards, even more so those that tout an Impact Factor and claim to be “quality” journals. In some cases (both Springer and Elsevier journals), the proof production department, which is based in Chennai, India, for both companies, have actually introduced errors into proofs of my papers which, had they not been meticulously scanned and checked, would have resulted in the publication of publisher-induced errors. In my case, I picked up the errors in my own papers, but what about so many scientists who might have placed trust in the quality control of the proof production process of these publishers? We have got to hold the publishers more accountable for what they have published, and not only the authors.

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