A case control study that links miscarriage to a particular event was published in Journal A. The paper says that most women were pregnant when interviewed. Whether or not they had miscarried when interviewed matters because of “recall bias.” In fact, most of the women who miscarried had already miscarried and so were not pregnant. The statement that most of the women were pregnant is “true” because all of the controls produced live births and were pregnant. The statement is thus misleading. Journal A was alerted to the problem by an editor from Journal B, which had accepted, but not published, a paper from the same authors with the same design. Their reviewers had identified the problem, and the authors were asked to change their wording. The editorial team of Journal A felt that the authors should have alerted them to the problem when it was flagged up by Journal B, as it may well affect the validity of the results. Should the authors have made the same change in the Journal A study? Might they be actively misleading readers? Should any action be taken?
_ The authors should have come back to the editorial team about the problem. _ Such a change warranted at least an erratum in the journal and the editor should go back to the authors and ask for an explanation. _ The editor felt that the authors should publicly apologise for their actions but felt that these probably did not constitute a serious enough breach to retract the paper. _ The editor should copy his letter to the head of the institution in order to raise awareness in the institution.