Jumped the gun: Paper about non-finalized guidelines is retracted

Too soon? A surgeon is retracting his overview of new hernia surgery guidelines after it was published before the guidelines were finalized.

The paper, published in German in the journal, Der Chirurg, was also retracted because — according to two co-authors of the new guidelines — the final version of the guidelines was supposed to appear first, in English, in another journal.

The author of the paper, Dirk Weyhe, explained that the journal invited him to write an overview of the new guidelines for a special issue. According to Weyhe, a surgeon based in Germany who was a co-author on the guidelines, the aim of the special issue was to follow-up on an agreement reached at an international hernia conference in 2016:

to implement the new Guideline nationwide in Germany by spring 2017. Publishing a German overview of the Guideline was seen as a first step towards this goal.

The main focus of the paper, Weyhe explained, “was to summarize the most important recommendations,” and compare the new guidelines to previous ones.

According to two other co-authors on the recommendations, neither of whom wanted to be named, the finalized version of the complete set of guidelines was supposed to be published first in another journal, Hernia.  One told us that the guidelines have now been finalized, accepted by the journal, and scheduled for publication.

Weyhe explained that, while writing his paper for Der Chirurg:

…it became clear that at least the online publication date for the special issue of “Der Chirurg” was set to be before the publication date of the HerniaSurge Guideline. In case of important changes, an amendment was planned to be published by me in a later issue of “Der Chirurg”.

However, when he realized the final version of the guidelines was going to be delayed, Weyhe told us he decided to retract the paper, to prevent potentially out-of-date information from lingering in the literature.

We asked Weyhe if he had been told the guidelines were supposed to appear first in another journal:

I have heard about this discussion but have no further information.

Here’s the retraction notice for “New worldwide guidelines for treatment of inguinal hernia. The most important recommendations from HerniaSurge” which appeared online in March 2017:

The article “New worldwide guidelines for treatment of inguinal hernia. The most important recommendations from HerniaSurge” published in Der Chirurg, DOI 10.1007/s00104-017-0386-3 [Epub ahead of print], has been retracted at the request of the author. There is a conflict of intellectual property ownership of the published material. The research presented in this article originated from the project HerniaSurge. However, the project has been extended and the results are not final. This means the author may not publish work that originated from the project at this time. The author apologizes sincerely for this oversight.

Weyhe explained:

In the manuscript I explicitly stated that there might be some potential for changes still, since some recommendations were not formally consented to by all authors.

Indeed, a footnote in the article, which we translated from German with Google, stated that the “present and publication version (25.01.2017) is still under discussion at the close of the editorial” and that “Changes to the graduation of some recommendations are potentially possible.”

Once the official guidelines are published, Weyhe said that  he plans to publish his paper, which will still focus on “the most important recommendations.”

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