“Undeclared competing interest” sinks fish oil takedown by author fined for deceptive claims

Snake swallowing a whole fish
Image via Jesse Palmer

The Journal of Lipids has retracted an aggressively negative review article called “Why Fish Oil Fails,” written by one Brian S. Peskin, whose bogus health claims have landed him in plenty of hot water in the past.

Here’s the notice:

The article titled “Why Fish Oil Fails: A Comprehensive 21st Century Lipids-Based Physiologic Analysis”, published in Journal of Lipids has been retracted as a result of an undeclared competing interest on the part of the manuscript’s author.

According to Quackwatch, Peskin paid $100,000 to the state of Texas in 2003 for lying about having a PhD and falsely claiming that his Radiant Health nutrition supplements could

eliminate food cravings, produce permanent weight loss, boost the immune system, increase energy levels and endurance, eliminate cellulite, maximize heart health, reduce the risk of cancer, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, help achieve peak health, and help control blood sugar / diabetes.

Peskin responded to those charges here.

We’ve reached out to Peskin, Hindawi, and the paper editor, and will update if we find out exactly what that conflict of interest was.

Update, 11 a.m. Eastern, 11/12/14: We heard from a reader who had more details about why this paper was retracted. Also, Hindawi chief strategic officer Paul Peters sent us this email:

As is stated in the retraction notice that we published
(http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/832729), this article was retracted on the grounds that the author had an undisclosed conflict of interest related to topics discussed within the retracted article.

In particular, it was found that the author, Brian Peskin, holds a number of patents (http://1.usa.gov/1v3neaF and http://1.usa.gov/1sCvGGq) and is a director of at least one company (http://www.peskinpharma.com/) related to essential fatty acids. Given that essential fatty acids are discussed at length within the retracted article, it was determined that this undeclared conflict of interest was serious enough to warrant retraction.

Hat tips: Jeffrey Beall and Rolf Degen

10 thoughts on ““Undeclared competing interest” sinks fish oil takedown by author fined for deceptive claims”

  1. The author of the retracted paper has also published a similar paper in a journal published by SCIRP, Scientific Research Publishing. This publisher has been on my list for a long time and has published many questionable papers. I have never known it to retract a paper, despite many protests from researchers. Instead, it invites those trying to correct the record to publish responses in the journals, but they charge for this.

    Here is the citation to the article in the SCIRP journal:

    B. Peskin, “Why Fish Oil Fails to Prevent or Improve CVD: A 21st Century Analysis,” Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 9A, 2013, pp. 76-85. doi: 10.4236/fns.2013.49A1013.

  2. And as for Hindawi’s Journal of Lipids and this paper in particular, the paper’s dates say it all: “Received 4 November 2014; Accepted 4 November 2014; Published 5 November 2014”. Received, peer reviewed and published in 24 hours. That has got to be a record! This indicates that Hindawi’s editorial and submission workflow is for the birds, and clearly false:
    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jl/workflow/

    [Editor’s note: Please see comment from Jill F. in response to this comment, pointing out, correctly, that these are the dates for the retraction notice, not the original paper.]

      1. Jill F. Thank you for detecting this error. Unfortunately, I cannot erase, edit, or cross-out my remarks, so I will correct and comment here separately. I have never seen a retraction note that has a “received”, “accepted” and “published” date. It sounds so odd. The fact that peer review actually did take place is even more worrisome because it shows clearly that it failed (as opposed to the previous hypothesis in the 24-h peer review that it did not even exist). Some facts (correct ones) associated with the now-retracted paper:
        Received 26 September 2013; Revised 10 November 2013; Accepted 11 November 2013; Published 16 January 2014
        http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jl/2014/495761/
        Academic Editor: Angel Catalá. Perhaps Dr. Catalá would like to comment as to why peer review failed to detect these problems assuming that the peers were really lipid and oil specialists.

  3. The claim about SCIRP is not totally accurate. SCIRP does in fact retract papers, but in an extremley dishonest way, I believe. For example, one most famous cases I know relates to researcher Serge Valentin Pangou, who was actually the subject of another RW story in March, 2012 (a). In that story, the 2011 paper by SCIRP’s American Journal of Plant Sciences had not yet been retracted. However, in the intermediate period between March 2012 and November 2014 (exactly when is a mystery), the paper has been retracted. Much more than retracted, it has totally vanished. A search on SCIRP’s search engine reveals no matches to his name, or to the title, but other web-sites reveal that the paper was in the September 2011 volume 2, number 3, pages 385-390 (b). Yet, you will find no retraction notice at SCIRP, no PDF file with a red-stamped RETRACTED. This procedure is incompatible with COPE’s policies on retractions, because SCIRP states clearly (c): “SCIRP follows the Code of Conduct of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and follows the COPE Flowcharts for Resolving Cases of Suspected Misconduct.” Ironically, SCIRP, on the same page, has a massive retraction policy (d). What doesn’t make sense to me is how “removal” is compatible with correcting the scholarly record. Incidentally, a problematic paper with alleged heavy plagiarism reported at RW in the very same journal (e) still remains on the AJPS web-site, but for how long?

    (a) http://retractionwatch.com/2012/03/08/plagiarism-leads-to-seven-retractions-and-counting-in-the-conservation-literature/
    (b) http://www.phenix-veterinaire.com/extract/preview147_TOC_Amer.J.Plant.Sci_23.pdf
    (c) http://www.scirp.org/aboutUs/ForAuthors.aspx
    (d) “SCIRP recognizes the importance of the integrity and completeness of the scholarly record. The historic record of published research articles shall remain available and unaltered as far as possible. However, circumstances may arise where a paper got published based on misconduct or honest error. Editors certainly guide the review process with much care, but it remains notoriously difficult to detect all occurrences of misconduct or error. For this reason it may become necessary to correct the scholarly record. The decision to alter the record should not be taken lightly. Action taken depends on the individual case and can take the form of
    • Expression of Concern
    • Correction (Erratum or Corrigendum)
    • Retraction
    • Removal
    The purpose of the action is to correct the literature and to alert readers. It is not intended to punish the author(s).

    The responsibility of guiding an investigation of misconduct or honest error is with the editor of the journal concerned. Authors and reviewers will take part in the investigation. The editor will decide on the form to best correct the scholarly record. Guiding principles are COPE’s Retraction Guidelines and other accepted scholarly principles.

    If final action originates from an author’s request, the author will not be charged for it. If the measures taken (e.g. a retraction) were not initiated by the author(s) or are even taken without mutual agreement, the author(s) will not be financially compensated and Article Processing Charges (APC) will not be reimbursed.”
    (e) http://retractionwatch.com/2014/01/25/weekend-reads-trying-unsuccessfully-to-correct-the-scientific-record-drug-company-funding-and-research/#comments (see NOvember 7, 2014 entry)

  4. I was one of the people who complained to Hindawi months ago, and I also sent multiple e-mails with info that rebutted Peskin’s highly biased, unsupported claims. I’m glad they finally retracted it. His reviews are poorly done science at thier core. His style is more like a mass-media publication, designed to grab headlines and attention. His work is filled with wild claims and hype, and many of his citations don’t support his claims; many rebut them! Peskin is involved in competing EFA formulas, books and does speaking and radio.

    SCIRP is another matter entirely! I’ve sent numerous messages, including lengthy chat messages, along with a 22-page debunking of Peskin’s bogus SELECT rehash trial review, the one where the subjects were only given a single blood test a decade ago and never given any fish oil or fish (nor were fish oil or fish intake ever tracked at any time).

    I have been stonewalled by SCIRP at every turn, and constantly told I have to pay ($100.00 per page). I said it was a formal complaint about research misconduct and reminded them they claim to follow the COPE guidelines. They really don’t care! saying they follow COPE is just marketing and PR.

    I have also sent my 22-page rebuttal (with 95 liks, many from Pubmed) to the SCIRP Food and Nutrition Science journal e-mail address and contacted several board editors. One contacted their Editor-in-Chief, named Professor Alessandra Bordoni. He told me today he has heard nothing and it’s been a week or so.

    If anyone has suggestions, let me know!

  5. Steve. Perhaps these suggestions that could advance your cause. Self-publish the case in open access format, or publish your critiques in another journal. Google spiders will soon pick it up, and if you add sufficient links to blogs and online discussion boards, Googling the key-words of that paper, such as Peskin’s full name, or members of the SCIRP editor board will show up sooner or later. The list of all editors that you contacted, and their institutional addresses could easly be added as an appendix, simply because this is a summary of the facts. It is evident that Peskin will never respond. It is surprising that the editors did not respond. Did you only contact the EIC? I suggest adding all editors n the CC of your e-mail, to make sure that no editor has the excuse that they didn’t know. By publically publishing your story, and your list of concerns about the paper, as well as the actions that you have tried to take to correct the SCIRP literaure, you would be holding those individals who hold respnsibility for the publication of that paper, and its content, publically accountable, i.e., their lack of action in correcting the literature. If SCIRP / Peskin are not willing to face the music, then there are other ways of exposing their academic farse.

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