Some two months after publishing a piece of qualitative research about health behaviour in an ethnic minority group, an anonymous letter suggested that the work might be fraudulent. The letter was in very poor English, but made two main points. Firstly, the original study did not make clear how many women were included, and secondly, the anonymous respondent could not understand who could have done the interviews. These women would have to have been interviewed by another woman for cultural reasons, and yet the only woman included as an author was British and clearly would not have been able to speak the language of the women interviewed. These two questions raised doubts in the mind of the anonymous respondent about the genuineness of the study. These concerns were made known to the authors, who responded by saying that the paper did not specify how many women were included and that the interviews had been done by the wife of one of the authors. The original manuscript was checked to reveal that the number of women in the study had been edited out, although this was supposed to have been included in a longer version published on the web. In fact, the longer version had never been posted. What general lessons does the committee draw from this episode?
_ Some of these problems can be generated by too vigorous copy editing and electronic publication. Nevertheless, there are questions to be answered—namely, who did the interviews, problems with ethnic studies, and state of the raw data. _ The editor should contact the senior author and ask for clarification about who did the interviews, and their status. _ A clarification should then be published in the journal.
No further action taken.