A research article published some time ago detailed an invasive test. The authors obtained informed consent from the patients, but did not seek ethics committee approval. Subsequently, the journal published correspondence from X, detailing the article’s problems. X and others had attempted to replicate the study and had failed to achieve the accuracy levels as described. X stated that this was not an established clinical test and that there had been no prior publication of its application for the purpose stated in the paper. Additionally, the authors did not have the certification required to use the test, and the patients had a condition which affected them neurologically. Although problems with the article were published only six weeks after it first appeared, the authors could not produce the raw data for the investigation. X stated that the national regulatory body had stated in correspondence with him that it would leave it to the journal to decide on whether there was fraud or not. The editor stated that this was not the journal’s understanding of the national regulatory body’s judgment. The journal decided to wait for the outcome of the national regulatory body’s investigation. The issues were complicated by senior members of the authors’ institution accusing X of disparagement, which initiated a further investigation by the national regulatory body. X was cleared of this charge. The investigation found no hard evidence of fraud. The journal’s editorial committee has repeatedly discussed the issue and feels that it should publish the findings of the national regulatory body and ask the authors to reply.
- To retract a paper, there needs to be irrefutable evidence of fraud in the public domain, and the only body capable of exercising due process in this matter had made no definitive ruling on fraud. - A notice withdrawing aegis also requires proof of misconduct as it amounts to the same level of accusation. - X should write to the journal and include the correspondence from the national regulatory body, provided he is happy for this to be published. - The authors should be given the right of reply, as should the national regulatory body. - The journal should take legal advice in regards to the above.