Fallout from Questionable Article in OA Pediatrics Journal

Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown

Questionable science.

This article, “Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown” was published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, a journal published by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), a publisher included on my list of questionable publishers. 

The article reports that fallout from the Fukushima nuclear accident increased the number of confirmed congenital hypothyroidism cases in the population studied.

The article’s findings were reported in the media, including a report on ABC 10 in San Diego and Yahoo! News, among others.

However, some independent researchers are questioning the study’s validity. According to Dr. Yuri Hiranuma:

The actual count of confirmed cases of congenital hypothyroidism (CH) from the California Public Health Department does not match the authors’ count because they disregarded the actual count given to them. Instead, the authors (1) invented their own definition of confirmed cases of CH, (2) misrepresented the real definition of CH, and (3) invented a fictitious diagnostic category of CH which they call “borderline cases. Unfortunately, the study is widely disseminated as the “proof” of the effect of Fukushima fallout on the west coast.

Dr. Hiranuma wrote up her objections to the study and submitted them as a letter to the journal.  However, the journal refused to publish her letter. The letter has since been published on this blog. They sent her this response:

SCIRP

Publish anything in SCIRP journals, and they will stand behind you.

Next, Dr. Hiranuma sent an email asking why the letter would not be published, and she got this reply:

SCIRP

SCIRP refuses to correct the record.

I think one reason they won’t publish the letter is they only want to publish revenue articles — they don’t want to publish a letter for free. The following email confirms this:

ddd

Predatory publishing is all about the money.

Analysis: This is a case of several researchers who are concerned about health effects of radiation exposure using a predatory journal to publish questionable science that bolsters their position on the adverse health effects of low level radiation exposure. Upon publication of the article, they were successful in getting some media outlets to report their findings, and the findings were seen as legitimate because they were published in a scholarly journal. The journal’s publisher remains faithful to its customers (the paper’s authors, who paid to have their article published) and refuses to retract the article or publish a standard response to it. The academic record remains uncorrected.

I recommend viewing the following video, which provides a pitch-perfect explanation of the situation:

14 Responses to Fallout from Questionable Article in OA Pediatrics Journal

  1. Susan Ariew says:

    Amazing. This story should go to those news outlets who published the results of the study initially, though I wonder, too, if they will care.

    • This is certainly a scary example of the dangers of predatory publishing.

    • Yes, this is a scary example of the dangers of predatory journals.

      • bill says:

        Duplicate posts: I have wondered why we have seen various near-duplicate posts here. Now it’s happened to me, I see why – its an occasional hiccough with Wordpad: sometimes the platform doesn’t appear to have received our post (as happened to me yesterday) so after some time with nothing appearing, one tries a second time to post the same contribution. Then some time later both appear.

  2. Jeff Shrager says:

    So, youtube is now a scholarly publisher? I guess at least it’s open access and doesn’t charge for publication. I’m guessing that it’s peer review process leaves something to be desired.

    Why don’t they just publish the rebuttal in another journal?

  3. roryrobertsonformerfattie says:

    MDPI’s Nutrients journal wouldn’t publish my letter either, but underperforming Editor-in-Chief Professor Peter Howe in Australia was happy to publish an “Editorial” slamming me for pointing out that his journal’s quality control was incompetent if not non-existent: http://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/4/4/258

    In part because of this nonsense, Jeffrey Beale has added MDPI to his widely appreciated List of Questionable Publishers: http://scholarlyoa.com/2014/02/18/chinese-publishner-mdpi-added-to-list-of-questionable-publishers/

    It will be interesting to see what comes from the University of Sydney’s formal research-misconduct inquiry into its low-GI advocates’ extraordinarily faulty – and self-published – Australian Paradox research: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/LettersProfTrewhella.pdf

    Here’s Australian national radio’s February 2014 investigation of the matter: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2014-02-09/5239418

    And here’s my submission to the University of Sydney’s formal research-misconduct inquiry: http://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/RRsubmission2inquiry.pdf

  4. […] het nog veel duidelijker, dat werd gepubliceerd in een open access tijdschrift dat op het beruchte lijstje van Jeffrey Beall voorkomt. Dat tijdschrift weigerde ook zonder opgaaf van reden een ingezonden […]

  5. Marco says:

    Mangano & Sherman have form, and it is not just OA Publishers they use. Take this paper:

    http://www.radiation.org/reading/pubs/HS42_1F.pdf

    Which is published by Baywood. Its analysis has been heavily criticized for similar reasons as this current paper.

  6. Alex SL says:

    Wow, that is an interesting aspect of not only predatory but open access publishing in general that I had completely overlooked so far. If you run your journal by collecting fees for publication, publishing rebuttals, corrections or letters for free is rather… inconsistent. Where does one draw the line? One could even say that accepting such a letter for free sets a bad precedent in that economic model. And of course retracting something would have to involve reimbursing the publication fee…

    The incentives for publishers in an open access system are really problematic. If only we had the political will to create a non-profit publishing system with decent quality control and the right incentives in place instead of trying to “solve” the profiteering problem by shifting the profiteering from reading fees to publishing fees!

    • This would be a nice point if it were true that subscription-funded publishers did routinely publish letters. Some will publish responses which are essentially mini-papers – others will not even do that, and very, very few will publish letters which, e.g., call out simple logical fallacies or sloppy work. I think it’s mostly because editors would rather not have their own bad judgements publicized. That, in any case, is how it stands in economics and some other social science fields with which I am familiar – unless it’s so different in your field, don’t blame open access.

  7. […] A journal published by a company on Jeffrey Beall’s list of possible predatory publishers refuses to post a letter criticizing one of its studies. […]

  8. […] of  misbehaviors, ranging from simple “poor quality” to faking impact factors to the spreading of misinformation.  Perhaps most colorful of all is the “hijacking” of genuine journals’ sites in […]

  9. Susan Ariew says:

    I warned one of my faculty off of publishing with SCIRP this morning. This blog post helped to explain why journals from SCIRP are not considered reputable OA journals.

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