Tag Archives: Maria Kowalczuk

BioMedCentral Admitted to Scientific Fraud, Cover-Up of Vaccine-Autism Link By Pulling Brian Hooker’s Reanalysis

Maria Kowalczuk, “Research Integrity Manager” for Springer Nature – overseer of BMC

In the below 2016 email to Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)’s Iraxte Puebla, Dr. Maria Kowalczuk revealed that her publisher BioMedCentral committed scientific misconduct. In particular, she stated they deleted Dr. Brian Hooker’s MMR-autism reanalysis because his results implicated vaccines in causing autism. She also fabricated non-existent conflict of interest policies that he “broke.” And finally, she lied that his paper was subjected to post-publication “peer review” when it was summarily retracted after they demanded he conduct multiple studies!

Despite all that, Committee on Publication Ethics would later state that BioMedCentral “acted appropriately.” COPE’s chair is an adviser of the “research integrity” committee that Kowalczuk oversees.

Dear Iratxe,

Thank you for bringing this second complaint to our attention. We have reviewed our handling of this case and related correspondence again and we are of the view that BioMed Central has adhered to COPE Code of Conduct and COPE guidelines. As this complaint has not been brought by the author himself we are limited in what information can be divulged to a third party.

With regard to the specific questions from COPE, we provide a summary of our handling of the case below:

  • The article was received on April 17th 2014 and  published on August 27th 2014 in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration.

The article reanalysed CDC data and claimed to show a positive association between MMR vaccination and the risk of autism in Afro-American boys.

  • A reader flagged that there were undeclared competing interests related to the article: the author, Dr Hooker, was on the Board of Directors for Focus Autism which supports the belief that MMR vaccine causes autism.  We were concerned enough about the allegations and the content to remove it from the public domain immediately because of the potential harm to public health, and posted this message in its place as a temporary measure:

This article has been removed from the public domain because of serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions. The journal and publisher believe that its continued availability may not be in the public interest. Definitive editorial action will be pending further investigation.

The author was informed of this plan before we removed the article.

  • Our investigation concluded that the author did have an undeclared competing interest. We also found that the peer reviewers were also likely to have undeclared competing interests.
  • On August 29th, we removed the above notice,  reinstated the article and published this expression of concern:

The Publisher of this article [1] has serious concerns about the validity of its conclusions because of possible undeclared competing interests of the author and peer reviewers. The matter is undergoing investigation. In the meantime, readers are advised to treat the reported conclusions of this study with caution.

Further action will be taken, if appropriate, once our investigation is complete.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4150057/

The author was informed before we posted this Expression of Concern.

  • We obtained a further, independent expert peer review of the article because we were concerned about the original peer reviewers’ potential competing interests. That further peer reviewer reported concerns about the statistical methods used. We decided to retract the ­­­­­article with this notice on 3rd October 2014:

The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article [1] as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis, therefore the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologise to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.

http://translationalneurodegeneration.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2047-9158-3-22

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4128611/

The author was given an opportunity to respond to all the concerns raised and was informed before we retracted the article.

Our actions were in accordance with the COPE guidelines.

 

We provide a point by point response to Mr Crosby’s specific points below:

“Publishers should work with journal editors to:

  • Set journal policies appropriately and aim to meet those policies, particularly with respect to:
    – Editorial independence

All the actions were taken in consultation with and with the explicit agreement of the Editor-in-Chief of Translational Neurodegeneration. Editorial independence was not undermined at any stage.

– Research ethics, including confidentiality, consent, and the special requirements for human and animal research

None of the above were raised as issues in the course of the investigation.
– Authorship

No authorship issues were raised in the course of the investigation.
– Transparency and integrity (for example, conflicts of interest, research funding, reporting standards

We took action to ensure integrity of the published record in light of the concerns regarding conflicts of interest and the methods and statistical analysis that came to light after publication of the article. We acted in a transparent way throughout the process.


– Peer review and the role of the editorial team beyond that of the journal editor

External post publication peer review, that involved the editor, was conducted when concerns were raised about the article.
– Appeals and complaints

  • Communicate journal policies (for example, to authors, readers, peer reviewers)
    • Review journal policies periodically, particularly with respect to new recommendations from the COPE
    • Code of Conduct for Editors and the COPE Best Practice Guidelines
    • Maintain the integrity of the academic record”

BioMed Central policies comply with COPE recommendations and are accessible on our website. We regularly review issues that might affect our polices (sometimes in collaboration with COPE) and update our policies as necessary. Our Editors are required to follow our Code of Conduct for Editors and COPE Best Practice Guidelines. BioMed Central has a team dedicated to dealing with research integrity issues and maintaining the integrity of the scientific record.

Please do let us know if you need any further information or clarification.

With best wishes,

Maria

 

Maria Kowalczuk, PhD 
Biology Editor,

Research Integrity Group 

BioMed Central

Floor 6, 236 Gray’s Inn Road
London, WC1X 8HB

+44 20 3192 2000 (tel)               

+44 20 3192 2010 (fax)

E-mail: Maria.Kowalczuk@biomedcentral.com