When is lack of scientific integrity a reason for retracting a paper? A case study

J.G. Fiedorowicz*, J.L. Levenson, A.F.G. Leentjens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Objective: The journal received a request to retract a paper reporting the results of a triple-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. The present and immmediate past editors expand on the journal's decision not to retract this paper in spite of undisputable evidence of scientific misconduct on behalf of one of the investigators.Methods: The editors present an ethical reflection on the request to retract this randomized clinical trial with consideration of relevant guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) applied to the unique contextual issues of this case.Results: In this case, scientific misconduct by a blinded provider of a homeopathy intervention attempted to undermine the study blind. As part of the study, the integrity of the study blind was assessed. Neither participants nor homeopaths were able to identify whether the participant was assigned to homeopathic medicine or placebo. Central to the decision not to retract the paper was the fact that the rigorous scientific design provided evidence that the outcome of the study was not affected by the misconduct. The misconduct itself was thought to be insufficient reason to retract the paper.Conclusion: Retracting a paper of which the outcome is still valid was in itself considered unethical, as it takes away the opportunity to benefit from its results, rendering the whole study useless. In such cases, scientific misconduct is better handled through other professional channels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110412
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Volume144
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Keywords

  • Blinding
  • Ethical reflection
  • Homeopathy
  • Randomized control trial
  • Retraction
  • Scientific Misconduct
  • CLINICAL-TRIALS

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