Friday, February 12, 2010

Monkey Business Indeed

The infamous monkey-hep B vaccine study, co-authored by none other than Andrew Wakefield, that was clearly part of a larger body of work has been withdrawn by the editors of Neurotoxicology after being accepted. First though, hat-tip to KWombles at Countering Age of Autism for the find. Last October, when the study was announced and e-published ahead of print, Just the Vax, Respectful Insolence and A Photon in the Darkness thoroughly debunked the methods and results but also highlighted the blatant conflicts of interest that remained undeclared in the study proof and corrected proof.

Elsevier's Policy on Article Withdrawl states:
An outcome of this principle is the importance of the scholarly archive as a permanent, historic record of the transactions of scholarship. Articles that have been published shall remain extant, exact and unaltered as far as is possible. However, very occasionally circumstances may arise where an article is published that must later be retracted or even removed. Such actions must not be undertaken lightly and can only occur under exceptional circumstances, such as:

Article Withdrawal: Only used for Articles in Press which represent early versions of articles and sometimes contain errors, or may have been accidentally submitted twice. Occasionally, but less frequently, the articles may represent infringements of professional ethical codes, such as multiple submission, bogus claims of authorship, plagiarism, fraudulent use of data or the like.

Article Withdrawal
Articles in Press (articles that have been accepted for publication but which have not been formally published and will not yet have the complete volume/issue/page information) that include errors, or are discovered to be accidental duplicates of other published article(s), or are determined to violate our journal publishing ethics guidelines in the view of the editors, may be “Withdrawn” from ScienceDirect. Withdrawn means that the article content (HTML and PDF) is removed and replaced with a HTML page and PDF simply stating that the article has been withdrawn according to the Elsevier Policy on Article in Press Withdrawal with a link to the current policy document.
At this juncture, it is purely speculation as to what led to the withdrawl of this study, however, it stands to reason that Andrew Wakefield's recent woes with the GMC rulings and the Lancet retraction of his 1998 study that implicated the MMR triple jab with his, entirely made-up, autistic enterocolitis diagnosis. In any event, it is safe to say that the withdrawl of this recent study by Neurotoxicology editors indicates something untoward.

There is no doubt that anti-vax sites like Age of Autism and Generation Rescue will use this opportunity to screed about 'persecution', 'suppression', 'censorship' and 'conspiracy' and keeping the 'Brave Maverick Doctors' down. But that is simply not the case. There is no doubt that that editors of reputable journals don't take such actions lightly and will have to answer for them. So whether this is a case of the science or ethics being more closely-scrutinised and/or the massive, undeclared conflicts of interest coming to light, that is more than enough to justify the withdrawl of this study.

In any event, we hope that the anti-vaxxers can at least get it straight that there were 20 monkeys used for this study. Twenty monkeys that were sacrificed (sorry Orac) to further a warped personal agenda and not to advance our scientific knowledge.


  1. So far silence from AoA. I'm really curious about who prompted the withdrawal. The editor? Maybe the author(s)?

  2. Still no word from the Wakefield camp on this. I just don't see the authors retracting this. My wager is on the editors or at the behest of author institutions (some of them anyway).