Maybe you saw the story in the New York Times about new research that may show that ingesting too much caffeine while pregnant increases the chances of miscarriage. And, if you’re like me, one of the first things you did was try to track down the actual research paper discussed in the newspaper article.
If so, I hope you’ve had better luck than I have.
The New York Times article (dated January 20 — that was a Sunday) describes the research as “to be published Monday in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology” and identifies “the lead author of the study” as De-Kun Li. Writing about the same study (and quoting Dr. De-Kun Li), MedPage Today gives the citation for the research as Weng X, et al. “Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage: a prospective cohort study” Am J Obstet Gynecol 2008; DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803. (Presumably that means that the “lead” author is not, in this instance, the first author.)
But here’s where things get really interesting. The January issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology seems not to include this article — or, indeed, any article about caffeine and miscarriage. And no such article appears in that journal’s listing of articles “in press” (i.e., articles that have been accepted for publication by the journal).
So … does this article that the New York Times and MedPage Today cited actually exist? Is it actually published, or at least accepted for publication (and if so, where)? And how exactly, given this particular trail of breadcrumbs, is the curious reader supposed to get her hands on the peer reviewed research to see what it actually says?
Because if the science writer can’t get straight on the details of when and where the research is published, why should I trust the science writer’s analysis of what the research shows?