Sickle cell screening abstract retracted for host of reasons, including an ambivalent co-author

A scanning electron microscope image of a sickle cell, digitally colorized (via US CDC)

Researchers have lost a 2018 conference abstract on screening for sickle cell disease in Africa over a dispute over authorship and the lack of appropriate disclosures.  

The article, “Implementation of a sickle cell disease screening initiative in Uganda with HemoTypeSC(TM),” which was presented at a 2018 conference and then appeared in Blood, described a much-touted new blood test for sickle cell trait from a company in California called Silver Lake Research.

But according to the retraction notice, a noted public health researcher in Uganda said his name had appeared on the abstract without his permission:

The Editors retract the 2018 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting abstract cited above. The second listed author, Charles Kiyaga, has stated that the abstract was submitted without his consent or approval, which is a violation of ASH abstract and Blood Authorship policies.

In addition, the abstract does not include disclosures for relevant conflicts of interest. The third and fourth authors, Mark Geisberg and Erik Serrao, are employees of Silver Lake Research Corporation, which produces HemoTypeSC(TM), funded the study, and donated HemoTypeSCTM testing kits. This information was disclosed in the presentation for the abstract, but is not disclosed in the abstract text.

This retraction makes no statement on the underlying science of this study.

Charles Kiyaga approves the retraction. Ruth Nankanja, Mark Geisberg, and Erik Serrao do not agree with or approve the retraction. Stephen Balyegyusa could not be reached for a response.

‘We don’t fully understand why Mr. Kiyaga made this decision’

There seems to be some confusion over what everyone meant for the abstract. Serrao told Retraction Watch:

I guess it is the annual custom that ASH publishes their abstracts in Blood, but to my knowledge this is not shared up front and consented to by any authors.  We did not submit with the intention of publication in Blood – the intention was an oral or poster presentation to the conference audience.
Serrao said that Kiyaga

decided to wait until after the abstract was written, edited, submitted, approved, and already orally presented to state that he wanted to be taken off the author list.  We don’t fully understand why Mr. Kiyaga made this decision, and so it follows that all the authors disagree with the retraction except fro Mr. Kiyaga.  There was another issue raised by ASH that a conflict of interest (company funding the study) was mistakenly not inserted into a specific web page in their online portal, although this conflict was adequately communicated in every presentation of the data at the conference.

Kiyaga, a public health researcher in Uganda whose work fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa has caught some notice, did not respond to a request for comment.

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3 thoughts on “Sickle cell screening abstract retracted for host of reasons, including an ambivalent co-author”

  1. “all the authors disagree with the retraction except fro Mr. Kiyaga.”

    Fro? Now they will have to issue a correction to the retraction.

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