Science Research’s Bad Side

By John L Elliott MS

Yesterday, I wrote about Adverse Events studies.  Today I am writing about why science journal articles get retracted.  A bit of history first.  The the oldest retraction  is from 1756, a critique of Benjamin Franklin’s research on electricity.   In science at most universities there is pressure to “publish or perish”.  This trend dates back to the 1930s world wide. The problem is how much of academic prestige, career advancement, funding, all of those things are wrapped up in publications, particularly in certain journals.  For biology and medical researchers the Journal Nature is the goal.  My first papers with David Martin were published in Runner’s World.  Runner’s world now has fluff articles.  Back then it had data driven articles on physiology and training.

Collecting medical data is now a drag in research because of HIPAA laws on personal medical information.   Working in hospitals or with medical information in my past.  I had to take a course a year on these rules or get fired!

So greed leads to poor data collection and processing.  You then have to write in an APA format.  This leads to excessively long and boring journal articles.  This means it takes time for reviewers to analyze papers.  So papers maybe out for years with false data and false conclusions.

This is the number of papers across all areas of science Retracted since 2003.

Revenge of the Nerds Academic retractions have risen sharply in the last two decades. In part, that’s because more studies are being published. It’s also because more sleuths are looking for errors. There is a bar graph showing the number of retractions per year. It has the following data. In 2002, there were 125 retractions In 2003, there were 90 retractions In 2004, there were 127 retractions In 2005, there were 139 retractions In 2006, there were 212 retractions In 2007, there were 328 retractions In 2008, there were 449 retractions In 2009, there were 1,183 retractions In 2010, there were 5,009 retractions In 2011, there were 4,931 retractions In 2012, there were 1,155 retractions In 2013, there were 1,445 retractions In 2014, there were 1,113 retractions In 2015, there were 1,543 retractions In 2016, there were 1,674 retractions In 2017, there were 1,705 retractions In 2018, there were 2,531 retractions In 2019, there were 2,900 retractions In 2020, there were 3,067 retractions In 2021, there were 3,894 retractions In 2022, there were 5,454 retractions The spike in 2010-2011 is due to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' retraction of thousands of conference abstracts that failed to meet guidelines between 2009 and 2011. The group hasn't explained why this happened. Source: Retraction Watch

We don’t know why there is a spike in 2009-2011.  My guess is the cause was economic at universities due to the 2007-2010 recession and project funding.  Also the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers retracted many articles that did not meet guidelines.  The same maybe happening from 2018-2022 as many journals are now going back review articles with more reviewers.

So care is needed when you start a research project.  Care has to be taken to check all your references to be sure they have not been retracted.  A famous case was the vaccine-autism myth is one chilling example of poor science is the infamous article published in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, in which Andrew Wakefield, a former British doctor, falsely linked the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine to autism.  The paper eventually was retracted by the co-authors and the journal.  Wakefield was de-licensed by medical authorities for his deceit.  The study only had 12 subjects. Since then more research has been done and found the cause of Autism.  What this did do was increase studies into the possible causes of Autism.  Studies like this one are giving insights into autism.

The maternal body as environment in autism science


So in summary, what can we take away from this?  The lessons are as follows 1. We need more data studies on vaccine failures,  2. we need to develop better testing for vaccine risk factors for failure, 3. we need better education on the immune system at all levels of education so people are more aware of correct sources of information, and lastly we need to continue immunological research and development.

A good place to start this research are vaccine failure studies by Darrell O. Ricke PhD using the VARES database of the CDC.  CDC Vaccine database