Tag Archives: Anna Perman

BioMed Central Breaks Policy by Retracting Brian Hooker’s Study

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By Jake Crosby

Above is a summary of the reasons that justify a possible paper retraction, according to Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)’s retraction guidelines that are also used by BioMed Central (BMC). However, none of the above reasons were even mentioned in BMC journal Translational Neurodegeneration’s below justification for retracting Dr. Brian Hooker’s study, “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data”:hookerretraction

 

Clear evidence of unreliability, duplication, plagiarism and unethical research are all valid considerations for retracting a paper, but “concerns” are not according to the very retraction guidelines BMC says it follows. Such considerations do not include “undeclared competing interests” either. Although alerting readers to such non-disclosures may serve as a purpose of a retraction according to COPE, they are not justification for a retraction.

BMC’s retraction of Dr. Hooker’s paper is only the latest of policy breaches by the publisher after it deleted his article from its website in breach of policy on the permanency of articles. Citing a then-pending investigation, BMC refused to comment on that violation when contacted by Autism Investigated. Now with the paper retracted in breach of yet more policies supposedly followed by BMC, the publisher has even more explaining to do.

Jake Crosby is editor of Autism Investigated. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy and a 2013 graduate of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services with a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology. He currently attends the University of Texas School of Public Health where he is studying for a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.

BioMed Central Breached Its Policies By Deleting Brian Hooker’s Study

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By Jake Crosby

Below is the excuse the publisher BioMed Central gave for deleting Dr. Brian Hooker’s study from the medical journal Translational Neurodegeneration:

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But whatever “possible undeclared competing interests” may have been outstanding, they clearly did not warrant taking down the article according to BioMed Central’s own policy for removing articles below. In particular, note the section boxed in red and how it clearly does not apply to Dr. Hooker’s paper at all:
 biomedcentralremoval

There is nothing “unlawful” about “possible undeclared competing interests,” and the excuse for removing Dr. Hooker’s study makes no mention of “threatened legal claims.” BioMed Central breached its own “Permanency of articles” policy by deleting his study, amounting to scientific censorship and casting serious doubt on the objectivity of the publisher’s ongoing investigation of the paper. Moreover, the statement from the CDC whistleblower who coauthored the original study Dr. Hooker reanalyzed the data from lends credence to the validity of his conclusions.

Expanding on these concerns, I wrote the following in email to BioMed Central with the subject title, “Pulling Dr. Hooker’s paper violates your policies”:

Dear BioMed Central,

I am an epidemiologist, graduate student and editor of an autism news website. I am writing because I understand you have removed an article from one of your journals titled “Measles-mumps-rubella vaccination timing and autism among young african american boys: a reanalysis of CDC data,” by Dr. Brian Hooker out of concern for the validity of its conclusions because of “possible undeclared competing interests of the author and peer reviewers.” I should say I know Dr. Hooker personally and consider him a colleague and friend, though I am making this inquiry entirely on my own behalf and not on his or anybody else’s.

I have three questions for you concerning your take-down of his paper:

1.) What possible competing interests are there among the author and peer reviewers that have not already been declared and are so serious that they would warrant the deletion of Dr. Hooker’s paper?

2.) Shouldn’t the below admission from a coauthor of the original CDC study from which Dr. Hooker reanalyzed the data be an encouraging indication of his paper’s validity?

“I regret my co-authors and I omitted statistically significant information in our 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics. The omitted data suggested that African American males who received the MMR vaccine before 36 months were at increased risk for autism. Decisions were made regarding which findings to report after the data was collected, and I believe that the final study protocol was not followed.”

http://www.morganverkamp.com/august-27-2014-press-release-statement-of-william-w-thompson-ph-d-regarding-the-2004-article-examining-the-possibility-of-a-relationship-between-mmr-vaccine-and-autism/

3.) According to BioMed Central’s “Permanency of articles” policy, even articles that are retracted remain in the public domain: “…the original article remains in the public domain and the subsequent correction or retraction will be widely indexed.”

This paper is not even retracted, despite an erroneous report from TIME Magazine. Yet Dr. Hooker’s paper has already been removed against your publisher’s policy which states:

“The preservation of scientific research is a cornerstone of science and as such we will use our best efforts to ensure that material published by BioMed Central is preserved and remains available for access.”

This is further backed up by the following statement, which very specifically lays out what reasons would justify the deletion of material from the public domain:

“However in the exceptional event that material is considered to infringe certain rights or is defamatory we may have no option but to remove that material from our site and those sites on which we have deposited the material in question.

BioMed Central therefore reserves the right to cease to make available articles that it has been advised are potentially defamatory or that infringe any intellectual property right, or are otherwise unlawful.”

Clearly, the questions about paper’s validity and any subsequent “public interest” did not warrant its deletion. There was nothing potentially defamatory, copyright-infringing or otherwise unlawful about Dr. Hooker’s paper. Regardless of whether non-declaration of possible competing interests by the author or peer reviewers is true, there is nothing that would be “unlawful” about it.

BioMed Central clearly lays out how it handles the removal of such material:

“Where this occurs the article will remain indexed. However in place of the article or header the following will appear:

“BioMed Central regrets that this article is no longer available to avoid threatened legal claims”.”

http://www.biomedcentral.com/about/permanency

This does not apply to Dr. Hooker’s paper at all, and no such statement was made in place of his paper. It is therefore clear that you pulled his paper in breach of your own stated policies.

How can readers trust the objectivity of any subsequent editorial investigation since your reason for pulling the paper is contradicted by your own permanency policy in the first place? That reason hypocritically calls into question the objectivity of the author and peer reviewers, yet your investigation is not being conducted in an objective manner.

Sincerely,

Jake Crosby, MPH
Editor, Autism Investigated
www.autisminvestigated.com

BioMed Central sent me this reply:

Dear Jake,

Thank you for your message. We are not providing further comment until the investigation is concluded.
I will keep your email and let you know when that is.

Best wishes,

Anna

Anna Perman
Media Officer

I then responded:

Dear Anna,

Will you at least explain why his paper should stay down when deleting it in the first place clearly goes against your permanency policy?

Jake

Receiving an automatic reply, I sent a similar email to another BioMed Central employee only to receive an automatic reply from that person as well. As the study remains deleted, the publisher’s subsequent “investigation” of it is clearly anything but objective.

BioMed Central should abide by its own policies, and restore Dr. Hooker’s study to the public domain of Translational Neurodegeneration immediately.

Jake Crosby is editor of Autism Investigated. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a Bachelor of Arts in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy and a 2013 graduate of The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services with a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology. He currently attends the University of Texas School of Public Health where he is studying for a Ph.D. in Epidemiology.