Despite apology, bagpipes study not slated for retraction

Thorax

It’s not often that a paper elicits an apology — but that’s just what happened when family members first learned a bagpipe musician died from inhaling mold and fungi from a case study reported in a journal. The hospital has since apologized; the journal, however, told us it is not planning to issue a retraction.

The University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust in Wythenshawe, UK, has apologized and launched an internal investigation into the case report after the family’s distress was extensively covered by the UK’s mainstream media, such as The BBC, The Independent, The Daily Mail, and The Telegraph.

There seem to be conflicting accounts over whether any consent was obtained to publish the report. The Thorax paper says the patient gave consent, and according to Gisli Jenkins, co-editor-in-chief of the journal and a professor of experimental medicine at Nottingham University in the UK, consent was sought from the family. But the patient’s daughter told us that neither the next of kin nor the patient were approached for consent. 

The release of the report on August 22 was “completely unethical,” said Erin Tabinor, daughter of musician Bruce Campbell and a makeup artist in Liverpool, UK. Tabinor told us that the family wasn’t aware that playing bagpipes was the cause of Campbell’s death: Continue reading Despite apology, bagpipes study not slated for retraction

Should systematic reviewers report suspected misconduct?

BMJ Open

Authors of systematic review articles sometimes overlook misconduct and conflicts of interest present in the research they are analyzing, according to a recent study published in BMJ Open.

During the study, researchers reviewed 118 systematic reviews published in 2013 in four high-profile medical journals — Annals of Internal Medicine, the British Medical Journal, The Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet. In addition, the authors contacted review authors to ask additional questions; 80 (69%) responded. The review included whether the authors had followed certain procedures to ensure the integrity of the data they were compiling, such as checking for duplicate publications, and analyzing if the authors’ conflicts of interest may have impacted the findings. 

Carrying out a systematic review involves collecting and critically analyzing multiple studies in the same area. It’s especially useful for accumulating and weighing conflicting or supporting evidence by multiple research groups. A byproduct of the process is that it can also help spot odd practices such duplication of publicationsContinue reading Should systematic reviewers report suspected misconduct?

Is China using organs from executed prisoners? Researchers debate issue in the literature

Journal of Medical EthicsA researcher is calling for the retraction of a paper about a recent ban in the use of organs from executed prisoners in China, accusing the authors of misrepresenting the state of the practice.

In April 2015, a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics welcomed the ban by the Chinese government as “a step in the right direction,” but noted that China remains plagued by a crucial shortage in available organs.

Some academics disagreed with the authors’ take on the issue, noting that the paper fails to note that many organs may continue to be harvested from Chinese prisoners of conscience; ultimately, the journal received a letter asking to retract the paper. The journal decided not to, and instead asked the authors to issue a lengthy correction, for instance changing the language about the government decision (“law” became“guideline”), and allowed critics to publish a rebuttal to the paper in May 2016.  Continue reading Is China using organs from executed prisoners? Researchers debate issue in the literature

Against authors’ wishes, journal pulls study with errors, statistical mistake

Annals of the Rheumatic DiseasesA rheumatology journal has retracted a paper about treating knee pain after an institutional investigation found a mistake in the statistical process.

Over several months, the authors proposed a series of corrections to the 2014 study. However, the journal Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases (ARD) decided that there were “unresolved concerns” about the reliability of the data, and decided to retract the paper entirely, despite the authors’ objections.

Here’s the retraction notice: Continue reading Against authors’ wishes, journal pulls study with errors, statistical mistake

In precedent break, BMJ explains why it rejected controversial “weekend effect” paper

After the reviewer of a rejected paper was publicly outed, the BMJ has taken the unusual step of explaining why it chose not to publish the paper.

The paper — eventually published in another journal — raised hackles for suggesting that there is no “weekend effect,” or a higher mortality rate in hospitals on Saturday and Sunday. This caught the attention of UK policy makers, who have proposed changing policies to compensate for any supposed “weekend effect.”

Amidst the heated discussion about the research, one of the reviewers was identified, along with suggestions that he may have been conflicted because he had published a study showing the opposite finding. Yesterday, the BMJ posted a blog explaining that it was the editors — and not one sole reviewer — who decided to reject the paper: Continue reading In precedent break, BMJ explains why it rejected controversial “weekend effect” paper

Biologist’s research under investigation in Sweden after being questioned on PubPeer

Holgersson
Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson

The University of Gothenburg in Sweden is investigating several papers co-authored by biologist Suchitra Sumitran-Holgersson after they were challenged on PubPeer.

Sumitran-Holgersson already has one retraction under her belt — of a 2005 Blood paper, after another investigation concluded the results “cannot be considered reliable.” Sumitran-Holgersson and her husband, co-author Jan Holgersson, did not sign the retraction notice. Both were based at the Karolinska Institutet (KI) at the time, but have since moved to the University of Gothenburg.

Now, the University of Gothenburg has launched its own investigation of the papers questioned on PubPeer, according to Continue reading Biologist’s research under investigation in Sweden after being questioned on PubPeer

Top journals give mixed response to learning published trials didn’t proceed as planned

Ben Goldacre
Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre has been a busy man. In the last six weeks, the author and medical doctor’s Compare Project has evaluated 67 clinical trials published in the top five medical journals, looking for any “switched outcomes,” meaning the authors didn’t report something they said they would, or included additional outcomes in the published paper, with no explanation for the change. The vast majority – 58 – included such discrepancies. Goldacre talked to us about how journals – New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), JAMA, The Lancet, BMJ, and Annals of Internal Medicine — have responded to this feedback.

Retraction Watch: When you discover a published trial has switched outcomes, what do you do? Continue reading Top journals give mixed response to learning published trials didn’t proceed as planned

2001 Fujii papers retracted — finally. What took so long?

BJO

Nearly four years after an analysis of more than 160 papers by Yoshitaka Fujii concluded the chances the data were authentic were infinitesimally small, the British Journal of Ophthalmology has decided to formally retract one of the papers included in that review.

The name Yoshitaka Fujii should ring a bell — an alarm bell, in fact — for our readers. He’s firmly listed in the number one spot on our leaderboard, with more than 180 retractions.

The recently retracted paper — “Ramosetron compared with granisetron for the prevention of vomiting following strabismus surgery in children” — has been included in that retraction total for years, because it was part of a seminal 2012 analysis by J.B. Carlisle that put the odds of data occurring naturally in some of Fujii’s papers at: Continue reading 2001 Fujii papers retracted — finally. What took so long?

Do science findings feel more novel, robust? They are — at least, in language

BMJ-Avatar-160x160

Do you think the write-up of scientific results has gotten more rosy over time? If so, you’re right — the use of positive language in science abstracts has increased by 880% since 1974, according to new findings reported in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers led by Christiaan H Vinkers at the University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands found that, among PubMed abstracts: Continue reading Do science findings feel more novel, robust? They are — at least, in language

Did a clinical trial proceed as planned? New project finds out

Ben Goldacre
Ben Goldacre

A new project does the relatively straightforward task of comparing reported outcomes from clinical trials to what the researchers said they planned to measure before the trial began. And what they’ve found is a bit sad, albeit not entirely surprising.

As part of The Compare Project, author and medical doctor Ben Goldacre and his team have so far evaluated 36 clinical trials published by the top five medical journals (New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, and British Medical Journal). Many of those trials included “switched outcomes,” meaning the authors didn’t report something they said they would, or included additional outcomes in the published paper, with no explanation for the change.

Here are the latest results from the project, according to its website:

Continue reading Did a clinical trial proceed as planned? New project finds out