Sunday, April 23, 2006

JPANDS Will Apparently Avoid Retraction

After my second open letter to Dr. Huntoon, the Editor-In-Chief of JPANDS, he responded in a way that was totally inconsistent with a prior communication:

Dear [Joseph]:

Thank you for your commentary regarding the Geiers' manuscript.

As I said before, you are welcome to enter into scientific debate regarding the paper by submitting a letter to the editor (conforming to the attached guidelines).

You are also welcome to communicate with the authors directly do discuss the paper.

L.R. Huntoon, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.N.
Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons
[Email removed]

As I have explained, Dr. Huntoon had already said that he would allow the authors to respond. He is aware of the error, and he must be aware of the tacit admission of this error by Mark Geier, the request of new data from CDDS, and so on. Now Dr. Huntoon is acting as if nothing had transpired.

This leads me to believe that JPANDS is not likely to print a retraction, however obvious and serious the error might be. I imagine the editors of JPANDS figure that a retraction would be more damaging to their type of journal than whatever damage to their already diminished credibility might result from not printing a retraction.

I know, I know. Many people had told me this, and they might have been right. I was naive to think that some intellectual honesty and integrity might exist in JPANDS and in the paper authors.

Given that I no longer believe a retraction is inevitable, I decided to drop the politeness, and just let them have it.

Dear Dr. Huntoon:

The last time we communicated I was under the impression that you were prepared to take some action regarding Geier & Geier (2006) and you stated that you were forwarding my comments to the authors so they would have a chance to respond, in the interest of fairness. Now you appear to be avoiding the issue altogether.

I do not mind if you print my comments as letters to the editor, even though this is not why I have contacted you. (Regarding conflicts of interest as defined by the guidelines you sent me, I submit that I have none. However, I do have more subjective conflicts of interest given that I am the parent of an autistic child and I am on the autism spectrum myself, so I object to the broad labeling of autistics as brain damaged or mercury poisoned).

I am confident Geier & Geier (2006) will be addressed formally in the scientific literature in due time. I understand the MIND Institute might be preparing a formal rebuttal, and blogger Interverbal has already posted a detailed rebuttal of this paper, which I understand has been submitted to your journal for publication as a commentary.

Nevertheless, regarding the particular error I have brought to your attention, no further "debate" is necessary. The error was well-known even before the paper was written. Given that the author has tacitly admitted to the error, and given that you must be well aware of this, I fail to understand why your editorial board would not be considering a retraction at this point.

To illustrate the significance of this error, if the autism caseload in 2010 and 2011, for example, were to be stable at 40,000, the authors would claim that the number of diagnosed cases of autism between those two years is zero. This is the kind of error JPANDS is knowingly allowing to remain published without a retraction, and this is public knowledge now.

I get the impression that JPANDS does not publish retractions or errata. I do not see a retraction policy in your guidelines. Can you confirm this? According to Atlas (2004) , only 18% of biomedical journals publish a retraction policy. This is unfortunate because journal retractions are the foundation of the scientific principle of self-correction.

There are people on the internet who say that JPANDS is not a reliable journal and that its peer-review process is non-existent. I have preferred to give JPANDS the benefit of the doubt. But at no point in our exchange has it been apparent that peer-reviewers are involved in the revision process, so I am now inclined to believe that what your critics claim is correct. In Huntoon (2006) you criticize what you refer to as "sham peer review", which you claim is a process "cloaked in secrecy, so as to protect the accusers". I hope this does not mean you believe peer-review in general, and anonymous peer-review in particular, is unnecessary.

In the interest of scientific integrity, intellectual honesty, and your journal's credibility, I urge you, Dr. Huntoon, to take some action regarding Geier & Geier (2006).



The JPANDS process has become a bit more clear as a result of this exchange. This is positive, and is public knowledge now. The tacit admission of a fatal flaw in the paper by Mark Geier is something else that has been achieved. Will JPANDS still publish a retraction? Maybe not now, but as the topic is dealt with in the formal literature in the months and years to follow, the pressure to do so might be considerably greater.


  1. Nice Work Joseph. Thanks for staying on them over this.

  2. Well done, Joseph. We have to keep up the fight to maintain standards of scientific discourse. You are doing an A1 job.

  3. Thanks. I think we're done with JPANDS at this point. It's become clear they don't do real peer-review or peer-review of any kind, and do not print retractions or even errata. I'd be surprised if they do in the future. I asked Dr. Huntoon directly if JPANDS prints retractions or not. He did not answer that question.

    Let me also quote Paul Choate of CDDS on Geier & Geier:

    In explanation for Dr. Huntoon, in March my California Department of Developmental Services Information Systems Data Extraction unit had a conference call with David Geier to express our reservations regarding his paper’s misrepresentation of our Quarterly Report information, including his paper’s erroneous assumptions and likely inaccurate conclusions. The paper disregarded several important aspects of the information, and ignored many of our clearly stated caveats. Unfortunately, at no time prior to publication did he or his reviewers contact the department for advice on the correct interpretation of this data. The data are system data intended for accounting purposes and are not suitable for this type of research. Research data are available and are regularly released to qualified applicants according to our internal policy and state and federal restrictions. No such request was made by the Geier group. Last week we met with a research team who are independent of our department and knowledgeable of our system data. They have for several years closely monitored the underlying data and draw conclusions that contradict Geier and Geier. They are finishing a rebuttal work for upcoming publication in a leading medical journal and sought our advice and review as researchers and other users of our information are welcome to do.

    Below is the link to our current Data Interpretation Considerations and Limitations posted on our website. This warning specifically applies to the tables Geier and Geier based their paper on. The last paragraph has been modified recently due to our public relations officer’s request, but the warning is essentially the same as when the report was written. The earlier version is available on request.

    Paul also clarified that the dataset requested by David Geier is not completed. He set some things to run (SQL scripts I assume), but he has not run them. He can't until the work is funded. I'm wondering if we can get someone else to fund this. I thought of the MIND Institute, but Paul says the MIND Institute already has access to confidential-level info from CDDS. Oh well, that would've been nice blogging data, but either way, the MIND Institute itself is preparing a rebuttal.

  4. " It's become clear they don't do real peer-review or peer-review of any kind, and do not print retractions or even errata. I'd be surprised if they do in the future. I asked Dr. Huntoon directly if JPANDS prints retractions or not. He did not answer that question."

    I could have told you that and saved you a lot of trouble. JAP&S is a biased, far right wing "journal" with a strong antivaccination tendency.

    I am happy, however, to see your revealing the full extent of the bias behind JAP&S and posting it for all to see.