Over the last couple of days, I've been writing about two incredibly bad "studies" by Anthony Mawson, an antivaccinationist and Andrew Wakefield fanboi, who first published one of them in a bottom-feeding predatory open access journal and saw it retracted. Then he appears to have divided the study up two minimal publishable units and had them published as two papers in a bottom-feeding predatory open access journal even lower on the food chain that the first, after having promoted its second coming among the antivaccine crowd. Obviously, I'm not going to go into the details of each study's failings in scientific design and execution, as the links in this paragraph do that at my usual length. I will, however, mention that the studies were funded by two antivaccine groups, Generation Rescue and the Children's Medical Safety Research Institute (CMSRI), the group associated with Jenny McCarthy and Claire Dwoskin's group, respectively.
I'll also mention that both papers appear to have been retracted by even the lower level bottom-feeding predatory open access journal that had briefly published them. (What will be even more entertaining is when Open Access Text, the publisher of The Journal of Translational Science—the journal in which Mawson's papers were published—explains the reason for the retractions, which it hasn't done yet.) The reason I mention that (besides that it feels good to do so) is that it has made the antivaccine movement very, very unhappy, at least those who've noticed the retraction. Many, if not most, antivaccine activists appear not to have noticed the retraction yet, given the continuing flow of crowing press releases gloating about how there are now definitive studies showing that vaccinated children are sicker than unvaccinated children. Never mind that neither study, both of which were based on the same dataset, shows anything of the sort. The retraction, however, does make the contemplation of how bad these studies are just that more delicious, particularly when groups like the Alliance for Natural Health publish articles using the Mawson studies as a basis for demanding that the FDA study vaccines.
So do the tears of antivaccinationists, for example, Sayer Ji of GreenMedInfo:
In today's newsletter, we feature an article about two small but powerful studies. They apparently terrify the vaccine industry champions to such an extent that they will publish falsehoods to keep the studies out of the public eye. Dr. Anthony Mawson, author of “Pilot Comparative Study on the Health of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated 6 – 12 Year Old U.S. Children” and “Preterm birth, vaccination and neurodevelopmental disorders: A cross-sectional study of 6 – 12 year old vaccinated and unvaccinated children” has been the target of Retraction Watch, an online blog of the “Center for Scientific Integrity” which receives “generous” funding from The MacArthur Foundation to promote integrity in science.
This fake news blog, which we hope the foundation will disavow, has been used to target a 35-year career scientist and his research in order to derail publication of two papers that were peer reviewed and accepted on their merits. Retraction Watch falsely claimed that one of the studies had been retracted by another journal, when it had never been officially accepted. They compounded the falsehood by claiming the paper had been retracted a second time, when it had simply been temporarily removed pending a response from the author to the false allegation.
Ah, "fake news"! The all-purpose epithet used by cranks (including our President) to describe any news, analysis, or criticism that they don't like. Retraction Watch, of course, is generally highly respected in the biomedical field. It does work that needs to be done, publicizing retractions that otherwise might never come to public attention, shining light into the darker recesses of biomedical research, and doing its part to keep scientists honest. You might be wondering what that bit about the paper not having been "retracted" once before this latest round is about. Basically, as I explained before, the abstract of the study was posted to the website of a Frontiers journal (the first bottom-feeding open access predatory journal) as having been accepted. At the time, I wondered why that was, as I noted that the peer reviewers were a chiropractor and a physician utterly unqualified to review a paper like this. It was never explained. In any case, Ji is using that ambiguity to claim that the article was never retracted. From my perspective, though, accepting a paper and then "un-accepting" it is a distinction without a difference. Of course, Ji might well be embarrassed, given how the day before the retractions were noticed his site had published a glowing review of Mawson's recent publications by Jeffrey Jaxon that concluded that "the battle now rages between openness and transparency versus the protection, through omission and overt censorship, of Big Pharma’s business model and need for ever-expanding bottom lines at all costs." Predictably, that's how the retraction—if true retraction it is—is being spun by antivaxers.
At the time of the original retraction (or un-accepting) of the first incarnation of Mawson's study, CMSRI, one of the organizations that funded the study, sicced an attack poodle on Retraction Watch. Why she wrote to Retraction Watch instead of the journal editor, I have no idea. Retraction Watch just reports and sometimes complains; it's the journal that decides whether a paper is retracted or not. Writing to Retraction Watch "for an explanation" is rather pointless, but that's what Celeste McGovern did anyway:
Celeste McGovern, a freelance journalist who has extensively covered the publication of these studies wrote to Retraction Watch asking for an explanation:
“The journal had neither formally accepted or retracted it. Clearly, there is a difference, as journals may decline to publish articles without finding fault in them but retraction is usually based upon some scientific mistake or misconduct in the science of the study that is measurable and objective and it is frequently a charge that has serious negative consequences on the careers of the scientists who published the study.Could you please direct me to the complaints about the study so that I can inform now my readers which now number in hundreds of thousands whether there is an honest mistake by the authors and where that is, or misconduct in reporting the truth of their data and what specifically that is?
If there is no such mistake or misconduct it would seem that reporting such would be itself a grave violation of the standard codes of scholarly conduct and ethical behaviour in professional scientific research and the pursuit of truth. Indeed, a mistake of this magnitude would be defined as scientific misconduct itself.”
At first, I thought that this was about the latest retractions, but then I read this passage more closely and realized that this was almost certainly about the first retraction (or "un-accepting," if you prefer). Basically, she was grasping at straws then.
Oh, please. Retraction Watch is not a scientific journal. It's a science blog focusing on retracted studies, why they're retracted, and how they're retracted.
Elsewhere, over on Facebook antivaccine-friendly pediatrician Dr. Bob Sears is claiming that the paper hasn't been retracted, claiming instead:
Update: The link was temporarily not working due to overwhelming traffic. It is now up and running again. Enjoy, and share!
It wasn't clear whether Sears was referring to the link to the fawning article over at his Immunity Education Group, Finally! A Study Compares the Health of Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated Children: The Results May Surprise You. (A more click-baity title is hard to imagine.) There, Sears claims:
UPDATE: Interestingly, by the time of publishing, this study has been forced offline and some links to it have been de-activated. Some have even falsely claimed the study has been retracted. It hasn’t, but perhaps some believe the results were a little too shocking? You can read the study (and a separate cross-sectional study of the same data) here:
Preterm birth, vaccination and neurodevelopmental disorders: a cross-sectional study of 6- to 12-year-old vaccinated and unvaccinated children, Mawson AR, et al, Journal of Translational Science Apr 24, 2017
Note that those two links go to the antivaccine group CMSRI, which is hosting the PDFs for the articles. (For anyone who wants to read them and see for himself or herself the epic incompetence involved, there's another source for the "retracted" articles.) As for whether the papers have been retracted or not, it's more confusing than ever. However, I tend to take the word of Retraction Watch, which has a track record of accuracy, compared to Dr. Bob Sears, who does not and in fact has a long track record of promoting antivaccine misinformation. Of course, given that Open Access Text is one of the lowest of the low predatory open access publishers, I doubt we'll ever see an explanation for its action, its statement to Retraction Watch notwithstanding.
I'm more amused by Dr. Sears' contortions defending the study on Facebook. Let's just put it this way. If Sears thinks these are valid studies whose results should be taken seriously, his approach to scientific studies leaves so much to be desired as to cast into doubt everything he says in his Vaccine Book. For instance, in response to a criticism of the study that this was not a valid study but "was merely a survey of a small group of homeschool moms, and was not scientific in any way" (which is true and similar to my criticism of these garbage studies), Sears responds:
It is labeled as a "Pilot" study, which means that you are correct in that you can't draw definite conclusions from it, as the article states. BUT, pilot studies can't be ignored either. Because the CDC won't research it, others have to, and it begins with pilot studies to see if MORE research is warranted.
Hilariously, another commenter responds by citing the NIH's National Health Interview Survey, which is a ridiculous comparison. The NHIS is everything that Mawson's ad hoc survey is not. Another cites a survey by VaccineInjury.info, a survey that's, if anything, even worse than Mawson's survey. I had fun deconstructing it a year and a half ago.
I look forward to any statement, if any is forthcoming, from Open Access Text. In the meantime, I will enjoy the pretzels of false justifications and excuses into which antivaxers are contorting themselves over this study and its removal from the Journal of Translational Science website. Their tears of unfathomable sadness are delicious:
Bob Sears couldn't science his way out of a paper bag with a hole in it, nor could any of the "Sears Family Physicians". They are that stupid.
I will wager 400 quatloos that your comment on his Facebook page correcting Sears about the Mawson retraction will itself be "retracted" by Sears before day's end.
Has Retraction Watch ever retracted any of its articles?
And would that be reported on Retraction Watch Watch?
Dr. Sears is not even trying to hide being anti vaccine anymore, himself or through his outfit, is he?
When we had a discussion about hepatitis B his criticism of the studies on its prevalence before the vaccine in children was that they were based on estimates based on "computer models". It didn't help to point out that some were based on the NHANES data, that includes blood testing and other tests.
What the journal did is weird, and I don't know how they will explain it. I mean, if you're doing a publication service for fee, shouldn't you stay bought if you were paid?
Funny how Retraction Watch is called a "fake news blog" when they regularly publish corrections and updates in their articles if needed. No mention that they publish articles criticizing studies done by labs.
Labeling Retraction Watch as a fake news site is absolutely hilarious. It is up there on a par with Congressman Lamar Smith calling Science biased magazine.
It's hard to do better than that.
"both papers appear to have been retracted by even the lower level bottom-feeding predatory open access journal that had briefly published them"
Holy shit, that’s some Tsar Bomba-scale funny.
Ah, “fake news”! The all-purpose epithet used by cranks (including our President)
Not to mention Mr. Fakefield.
Labeling Retraction Watch as a fake news site is absolutely hilarious.
I know. Retraction Watch does exactly what antivaxers claim should be done about medical research, publicizing bad and/or fraudulent enough to be retracted and the shenanigans that go into getting them published, thus exposing flaws in the scientific peer review system. They eat that shit up, and antivax sites love to cite Retraction Watch when a paper having anything to do with autism or vaccines is retracted; that is, until Retraction Watch turns its eye on an antivaccine paper. Then suddenly Retraction Watch is "fake news." Hilarious.
[A]ntivax sites love to cite Retraction Watch when a paper having anything to do with autism or vaccines is retracted; that is, until Retraction Watch turns its eye on an antivaccine paper. Then suddenly Retraction Watch is “fake news.”
I'll stop calling them Orwellian when they stop using 1984 as an operations manual.
To Dr. Bob Sears:
“You couldn’t get a clue during the clue mating season in a field full of clues in heat if you smeared your body with clue musk and did the clue mating dance.”
-Sir Edmund Blackadder
"has been the target of Retraction Watch, an online blog of the “Center for Scientific Integrity” which receives “generous” funding from The MacArthur Foundation to promote integrity in science.
This fake news blog, which we hope the foundation will disavow"
I didn't know GreenMedInfo did comedy.
I mean, if you’re doing a publication service for fee, shouldn’t you stay bought if you were paid?
That's the problem with choosing a journal that's bottom-feeding by the standards of other bottom-feeding journals. They can be flipped for a price, less than what Big Pharma pays for one good executive lunch.
It is up there on a par with Congressman Lamar Smith calling Science biased magazine.
It’s hard to do better than that.
During the cold fusion furor, the state of Utah appropriated $5,000,000 for a Cold Fusion Research Institute. It was pointed out that Fleischmann and Pons' paper had been rejected by Nature. The state congressman proposing the appropriation said the state of Utah refused to be told what to do by "some English magazine".
Nature. "Some". "English". "Magazine".
A picture of Cartman licking up the tears of Tenorman, whose parents he just got murdered and is feeding to him seems a bit ... off-point?
(Not that Tenorman didn't have some revenge coming, but ... this is Hannibal Lector territory, guys.)
@Eric Lund: but we've ALWAYS been at war with Eastasia...
“some English magazine”
At least this is technically true: Nature is indeed an English magazine. I say this because the front section is full of the sort of science news articles you would expect to see in a magazine (the same is true of Science). And it's not as though it has a spotless track record. There is a running joke to the effect of, "Just because it's in Nature doesn't mean it's wrong,"
But both Nature and Science do have peer reviewed articles. Which are "biased" only in the sense that they don't tell the "honorable" "gentleman" from Texas what he wants to hear.
A picture of Cartman licking up the tears of Tenorman, whose parents he just got murdered and is feeding to him seems a bit … off-point?
Oh, bloody hell. It's a meme, fer cryin' out loud! A meme! This particular meme has been commonly used for all sorts of mockery of all sorts of whining.
There is no reason that a pilot study can't be good science and can't be published in a reputable journal. We have done so using a cell culture model. I don't know enough about epidemiology to know whether all such pilot studies are limited, but the design and limited set of data in the study in question don't rise to the level of "pilot" in that it is not really a study.
Looks like what Sears has done on his FB page is lie about the retraction, something at which he is very adept at doing. You will see the 2 Mawson articles if you follow his links, but they are posted from the csmriDOTorg web site, where someone clearly grabbed the PDF version of the article before they were retracted from the OAT web site (where they have been retracted). This fits perfectly with the modus operandi of AVers, which is to only believe that which they wish and to lie to others to scare them out of vaccinating.
I really hope the CA Medcial Board takes his license.
At the time of the original retraction (or un-accepting) of the first incarnation of Mawson’s study, CMSRI, one of the organizations that funded the study, sicced an attack poodle on Retraction Watch. Why she wrote to Retraction Watch instead of the journal editor, I have no idea. ... Writing to Retraction Watch “for an explanation” is rather pointless, but that’s what Celeste McGovern did anyway:
I think you are misreading the time-line. When Sayer Ji repeated Celeste McGovern's purported letter* in his latest newsletter, he didn't say that it was sent last year at the time of the Frontiers debacle.
Last year, of course, the narrative across Wootopia was all "Censorship! Suppression! Frontiers buckles under pressure, retracts paper!!" And the RetractionWatch coverage of the first unpublication was accepted as fact and passed on from one antivax site to another in the manner of a communal lollipop; some of the antivax luminaries even appear in the RW comment thread, complaining about the injustice of the publisher's behaviour. So McGovern's letter -- questioning the existence of complaints about Mawson's paper -- would have made no sense.
It only makes sense now, in the context of Sayer Ji's decision to retcon the past and turn Frontier's antics into mere non-acceptance (requiring the re-branding of RetractionWatch as Fake News and part of the conspiracy). And Celeste McGovern, " freelance journalist" with "hundreds of thousands" of readers, is his meatpuppet.** It will be interesting to see how many antivax sites accept this new narrative.
* I say "purported letter" because although Sayer Ji has a copy, there is no evidence that it has actually been sent to RW.
** You might recall her from a few years ago, acting as Sayer Ji's pukefunnel for the "Kenyan Tetanus Depopulation Agenda" fabrication.
I disagree. I. Fact, I thought about this before making my conclusion, and in context I think I’m probably correct, albeit not close to 100% certain. One tell is that McGovern said that “the journal had neither “neither formally accepted or retracted it. One study, not plural, and the same excuse used last year for the Frontiers journal, an excuse that doesn’t apply here because OAT had actually published both papers already. So, again, I think my interpretation is probably correct.
To me, it doesn't make sense McGovern is talking about the current retractions.
Bob G: Pilot studies and reputable journals really aren't the issue.
The issue is these particular studies are incompetently done, are erroneous in their approach and conclusions, and are so badly so that the authors had to pay to get them published . . . not once, but twice. They have an insurmountable conflict of interest in their funding source.
To me, it doesn’t make sense McGovern is talking about the current retractions.
I agree entirely that McGovern is talking about the Frontiers debacle, but my point is that her attack on Retractionwatch (as part of retconning the Frontiers de-publication into a mere non-acceptance) did not occur "At the time of the original retraction).
Here is McGovern a week ago, praising the OAText version of Mawson's manuscript --
No mention of its previous history of publication / depublication. Last week she had no clue at all about the Frontiers debacle. That is my reason for thinking that her letter to Retractionwatch, if it was sent at all, is a recent event.
Celeste McGovern, a freelance journalist who has extensively covered the publication of these studies
If you can find any evidence of McGovern's "extensive coverage" of Mawson's work earlier than May 4th, you are doing better than me. She wrote a piece of stovepiped stenography for CMSRI, and then traded on her new-found expertise to be interviewed on the study for InfoWars.
Sayer Ji is, as always, fuller of sh1t than a 10-pound pigeon.
I see that Mawson is now featured as a speaker for AutismOne in a few weeks time, so the AutismOne grifters are currently pimping out his studies for all they are worth. Hence their sudden high profile.
Dorit Reiss @3, Mark Thorson@12: No honor among thieves. Honestly, the only thing I don’t understand is how POA rags haven’t already turned this into a major second-tier revenue stream: “Real nice vanity article you got published here; be a shame if somebody was to retract it…”
"Nice article. We see that it matters to you, and you're relying on it for your AutismOne promotions. The price just doubled."
As entertaining as that would be to see, it would be fraud and extortion, and then the Feds would have license to shut these places down and put people in jail . . . or the Brits for those journals "located" in the UK.
The scammers in India would probably just shrug their shoulders . . . to move to Nigeria.
Panacea@28: I've noticed that many of these predatory publishers seem to be based in India. There are probably several reasons for that. I don't know whether the difficulty of pursuing fraud charges from Western countries is among them. Ditto India's statutes, but I do know that India's courts tend to work rather slowly by Western standards.
I just realized a typo that might have made my comment unclear.
When I said the Indian scammers would just shrug their shoulders, I was implying what you just said about India's legal system. OR they would just move to another scamming haven, Nigeria.
OR they would just move to another scamming haven, Nigeria.
I suspect that "International Research Journals" would be keen to protect their turf.
I just found an interesting article on the Genetic Literacy Project exploring the links between the Anti-GMO Movement and the Anti-Vax movement.
I’ve noticed that many of these predatory publishers seem to be based in India. There are probably several reasons for that.
The success of the OMICS empire seems to have inspired half the inhabitants of Hyderabad with a "Me-too" attitude. In particular, a lot of OMICS employees thought "Why should I bust my ass scamming money for the boss when I could be scamming money for myself?", so they left -- taking templates -- and started second- and now third-generation imitators (like OAT). Evidently the "international electronic publishing" industry brings enough money into the Hyderabad economy that the local authorities were persuaded to pay for the office buildings and infrastructure for further development.
Of course that leaves open the question of *why* OMICS succeeded so well. Competition in Indian academia gets some of the credit, creating a precariat of academics who have a quota of papers to publish each year if they want promotion or continued employment.
That probably explains why there's so much garbage on Researchgate. It started out as a great idea, but the quacks and publishing scammers have taken over.
Totally off topic but knew you'd want to hear about this, if you haven't already: the Texas House of Reps just passed a bill banning doctors from giving kids vaccines when they enter the foster system.
I have got to graduate ASAP and get out of this God-forsaken state.
Sarah A. - blasphemy warning! Sweet tapdancing Jesus! Maybe you should emigrate to Canada.
I have a Scottish friend who almost died from polio in the early 1950's. His mother did die of polio and he spent much of his childhood in an orphanage. Never had a mother. Absolutely Dickensian (or Call the Midwife) He's grateful for modern medicine for saving his life.
@ 35 sarah &
I have got to graduate ASAP and get out of this God-forsaken state.
# 36 Jane Ostentatious
Maybe you should emigrate to Canada.
I don't think a US citizen can successfully apply for refugee status but that may change at any moment
"Celeste McGovern, a freelance journalist
If there is no such mistake or misconduct it would seem that reporting such would be itself a grave violation of the standard codes of scholarly conduct and ethical behaviour in professional scientific research and the pursuit of truth. Indeed, a mistake of this magnitude would be defined as scientific misconduct itself.”"
Before pointing fingers at others, she might look at her own actions. I wrote elsewhere,
Setting aside issues with the study itself for a moment*, it’s worth pointing out that the article in the original post [McGovern’s press release of the first OAT article] lifts values from the raw numbers and presents them as final results - a real no-no, and quite misleading. (Although unfortunately something you seen in some journalism from time to time.)
Raw data are not final results and should not be reported as if they were.
Celeste McGovern might want to note that her ‘performance’ was well below any reason standard to science reporting, and effectively lied to readers (poor and over-reaching as that study was, the authors didn’t make the wild excitable claims she made.)
(She has lifted figured from the data tables without regard for the sample size of the subsets, the significance, etc., and reported them as if they were conclusive findings. Completely misleading her readers - albeit likely added by ignorance of how to report science.)
"Could you please direct me to the complaints about the study so that I can inform now my readers which now number in hundreds of thousands whether there is an honest mistake by the authors and where that is, or misconduct in reporting the truth of their data and what specifically that is?"
If we take her at face value, all this says is that she has a larger audience that she’s mislead (see above) and that she lacks an honest sense of responsibility for her reporting. Just my opinion, but she should look very hard at her own misconduct in reporting the truth of their results before pointing fingers at others.
Celeste McGovern sometimes reads RI --
Her job appears to consist of taking bad "advocacy research" and dressing it up with her own mistakes, exaggerations and incomprehension to become "advocacy journalism" for CMSRI and GreenMedInfo. A hack, or propagandist, if you prefer.
So yes, it is entertaining that she accuses others of violating "the standard codes of scholarly conduct".
"Celeste McGovern sometimes reads RI"
JFWIW, I wrote with the realisation that she might bump into my comment; blog comments like here are openly readable and even if she’s not an active reader here, there’s always a chance she’d find it. (Also, some people search on their name, etc.)
Besides, if you write in a public space—as she does—you’re open to criticism.
Personally I think she ought to update her article, adding a note at the top that the paper(s) has(ve) been pulled/retracted. After all, her article now stands as a piece about something that’s now not published ‘science’.
I see that the CSMRI* offers research starting with the assumption that there are "biological and genetic risk factors for vaccine induced brain and immune dysfunction", funded by the Dwoskin Family Foundation. The CSMRI Facebook page is thoroughly anti-vax, illustrated for example by lifting up a post they claim was blocked (but where?) that is little more than a screed.
(* Not to be confused with the Australian-based, CMRI, The Children's Medical Research Institute.)
Ooh. I forgot that McGovern had commented once here. Back then, I had no idea who she was. I miss those days.
Personally I think she ought to update her article, adding a note at the top that the paper(s) has(ve) been pulled/retracted.
Personally I think that CSMRI and the AutismOne organisers should add a note that the papers have been retracted, when they use them and Mawson's attendance to advertise their scamfest.
But no, the story seems to be that the original JTS copies of the papers were taken down by Google. I am not making this up:
(tweet is from some Food / Racial-Purity gombeen, liked and retweeted by AutismOne, where there is evidently no shame about hanging out with white supremacists and spreading their conspiracy theories).
"Personally I think that CSMRI and the AutismOne organisers should add a note that the papers have been retracted, when they use them"
I agree. Just saying they’ve been retracted and not using them would be best, but then the proper and right thing would be to start using sound science and drop the poor stuff (but no-one will be holding their breaths for that).
Celeste McGoven on InfoWars, didn't see that coming.
Looks like the study is up again: oatext.com/Pilot-comparative-study-on-the-health-of-vaccinated-and-unvaccinated-6-to-12-year-old-U-S-children.php
No explaination of what happened though.