Publisher retracts 20 of a researcher’s papers — then asks him to peer review

Marty Hinz
Marty Hinz

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. So the saying goes. 

What about fool me 20 times?

In December of last year, Dove Press — a unit of Taylor & Francis — retracted 14 papers by Marty Hinz, a Minnesota physician who has been sanctioned by the U.S. FDA as well as the Minnesota state medical board. In March, Dove retracted six more. A typical notice:

Concerns have been raised regarding the alleged undisclosed competing interests of some of the authors, and the level of information provided on methodology, study data and process of institutional ethical approval for the published article.

The “competing interests” refer to the fact that Hinz owned a company that sold supplements that were the subject of many of the papers.

But on April 5 of this year, Dove asked Hinz to “join our peer review community to complete a review of the following manuscript” in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy. (Then again, Elsevier has asked us to peer review papers on COVID-19, so apparently publishers have scraped the bottom of the barrel so hard that the bottom fell out.)

We learned of the peer review request from Hinz, who sent us a statement earlier this week that he said had been written “by our corporate attorneys that are working the case regarding our perspective on the events with Dove press and all of the players.” (Hinz said he had not responded to several previous messages from us dating back to 2019 because he no longer uses the email address we used — which we obtained from the now-retracted papers. He declined to name the lawyers or put us in contact with them.)

The statement notes that the allegations that led to the retractions were the second set of such claims, and chalks up the retractions to rigidity on the part of Dove:

On July 31, 2014, Tim Hill,  on behalf of Dove, sent a notice to Dr. Hinz concerning an allegation made about the disclosures relating to the articles in question. On August 4, 2014, Mr. Hill, after discussing the matter internally and reviewing the responses from the authors, determined that Dr. Hinz was the subject of “some unwarranted accusations,” and they would not “pursue the matter any further.”

In July 2020, Dove, under new ownership, sent a notice requesting additional information relating to the published articles. The request sought information that should have been requested and on file with Dove Press at the publication date up to eleven years earlier. Dr. Hinz began to track down the information, most of which is contained within the IRB approval.

Hinz blamed his inability to provide the information by Dove’s December 15, 2020 deadline on a colleague’s medical issues. (We are withholding the name of that colleague because we do not have any evidence that Hinz was authorized to share the information.) He claims that he had the information two days later, but that Dove would “not allow for any time extension and immediately set out to withdraw the articles.”

The statement continues:

There has been no questioning of the scientific validity of the articles. The data relied upon, and the conclusions drawn are unchallenged in these actions. Unfortunately, the publisher chose to take such unnecessary, drastic action, but we stand behind the science contained in these papers. Eleven authors wrote the retracted papers. Ten of these authors have no ties to NeuroResearch Centers, Inc., or CHK Nutrition, Inc. 

Additionally, the fact that Dove still trusts Dr. Hinz enough to have him peer review articles to determine their scientific validity provides further evidence the retractions are not related to the quality of the science.

We are concerned by the steps Dove has taken and are considering all potential options available to us. We would be happy to discuss this matter further if needed. We look forward to continuing to serve you and your patients.

We’re not quite sure what the last line refers to.

Sabina Alam, director of publishing ethics and integrity at Taylor & Francis, which owns Dove, disputed Hinz’s account of events, but acknowledged that he should never have been asked to peer review:

Regarding the statement from Marty Hinz, this does not reflect the full investigation, or the repeated requests for information to validate the science in the retracted articles. As the authors had not supplied the information we requested regarding the study protocols, ethical approvals, consent and data, we were unable to verify and validate the reported findings, which is why we took the decision to retract the articles after a lengthy investigation and attempts to receive a response from all authors listed on the papers in question. This decision was made after independent academic assessment focused on their scientific validity and ethical standards and all authors were given adequate time to provide the required information, such as study protocols and raw data, for papers published some time ago. 

Regarding the peer review request which was sent to Marty Hinz, this was an oversight on our part, which will not happen again. We’re confident our systems would have picked this erroneous invite up later on but accept he should never have received an invitation to even a first round review, so have taken steps to ensure this cannot be repeated.  

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2 thoughts on “Publisher retracts 20 of a researcher’s papers — then asks him to peer review”

  1. From the conclusions of one retracted article, “Until this novel approach, there was no prior documentation claiming that [amino acid] L-dopa needed to be conceptualized as a nutrient which may be converted to a drug if it generates side effects, depletion, or dysfunction.”

    Since this paper is now retracted, I guess there’s still no documentation that L-dopa needs to be “conceptualized as a nutrient which may be converted to a drug.” How did this stuff get published in the first place?

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