Several years after a case series was published, a journalist with serious allegations of research misconduct contacted the editor. These allegations were that: - Ethics approval had not been obtained, contrary to a statement in the paper; and that the reported study was completed under the cover of ethics approval granted to a different study - Contrary to a statement in the paper that the participants had been consecutively referred, they were, in fact, invited to participate. - The children reported were also part of another project funded by legal channels. - The results of the study were passed to lawyers before publication. - An important financial conflict of interest by the corresponding author, which would have influenced the judgments made of the paper at the time, was not declared to the editors. - The journal launched an investigation with the authors' knowledge, and in conjunction with the institution, where the research was conducted. This concluded that the first two allegations were unfounded. But the undisclosed conflict of interest allegation was upheld. Ten of the 13 co-authors subsequently issued a partial retraction and an investigation by the national regulatory body began.
- The failure to declare conflicts of interests is common. - Journals do have editorial responsibility as to how papers are presented. In this instance the journal’s efforts had been overshadowed by the authors’ press conference. - The paper reported preliminary findings, which had been overlooked by the media. - The journal’s retraction had been appropriate. - No action required at present, but the options should be reviewed once the national regulatory body’s investigation have completed.