Peer Review Cautions

Insights and discussion from the cutting edge with reference to journal articles and other research papers.
circular
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Peer Review Cautions

Postby circular » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:42 am

There have been articles over the years about problems with peer review, and like most articles with numbers they point out the problem without putting it in perspective, e.g., how many articles are published that don't reflect peer review issues.

Still, I think it's important, since this forum does upload the importance of peer review when possible, to be aware of the shortcomings. A new article came out with new insights into how the game is changing for those who commit peer review fraud. Without wanting to "profile" authors, we need to be specially aware if looking at articles from China and Southeast Asia:

"Peer-Review Fraud — Hacking the Scientific Publication Process"

In August 2015, the publisher Springer retracted 64 articles from 10 different subscription journals “after editorial checks spotted fake email addresses, and subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports,” according to a statement on their website.1 The retractions came only months after BioMed Central, an open-access publisher also owned by Springer, retracted 43 articles for the same reason.

“This is officially becoming a trend,” Alison McCook wrote on the blog Retraction Watch, referring to the increasing number of retractions due to fabricated peer reviews.

...

The most important lesson is that incentives work. The enormous pressure to publish and publish fast — preferably in the very best journals — influences both authors and editors. This pressure exists almost everywhere but is particularly intense in China. It is therefore no surprise that the most inventive ways to game the peer-review system to get manuscripts published have come from China. The companies mentioned above that provide fake peer reviews all come from China and countries in Southeast Asia, and most of the authors involved in these cases come from the same areas. But it would be a mistake to look at this as a Chinese or Asian problem. The problem is the perverse incentive systems in scientific publishing. As long as authors are (mostly) rewarded for publishing many articles and editors are (mostly) rewarded for publishing them rapidly, new ways of gaming the traditional publication models will be invented more quickly than new control measures can be put in place.


http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NE ... g.facebook
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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby circular » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:46 am

Retraction Watch blog:

http://retractionwatch.com/

Here are the results of a search at their site for "Alzheimer's"

http://retractionwatch.com/?s=alzheimer%27s

Might be good for someone to follow this blog for us. I'll have to bow out. Just too much going on and behind in my life.
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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby SusanJ » Thu Oct 22, 2015 2:26 pm

Circ, a great find. Just skimming the first few I see a retraction of a 2013 study suggesting mag-threonate prevents AD in mice. They admit errors in their work, but still stand by their conclusions.

Good reminder to us all that even peer-reviewed research can have mistakes.

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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby circular » Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:03 pm

And I suppose it's worth clarifying that sometimes there might be innocent errors of interpretation or number crunching that slip through, which would be different from actual fraud. I suspect both are more common than we think. Problems with peer review have been noted for years now, but the nature of them is changing or expanding with the age of electronic peer review.
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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby circular » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:14 am

Even an article in Nature by an ivy league grad about e4 can be retracted:

'Former Columbia postdoc faked Alzheimer’s research in Cell and Nature'

http://retractionwatch.com/2015/04/07/f ... nd-nature/
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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby circular » Wed Dec 09, 2015 8:38 am

Hi Susan,

I'm just finally coming back to your note that Magtein was involved in a retraction. Any follow-on conversation about magnesium should be continued in a different thread, but I wanted to note here a discrepancy I noticed about Magtein with respect to retractions. According to ConsumerLab it's a different article that was retracted, but questions remain as to why a follow-up study of Magtein in humans hasn't been published. Dr. Bredesen's Feb 2015 update lists 'magnesium threonate 1000-2000 per day'. This is the type of magnesium in Magtein, but it appears there are other sources of it too. My Source Naturals 'Magtein' includes 144 mg of non-Magtein magnesium threonate with the 2 gm of Magtein.

Here's the thing. When I go back to retraction watch I can't find that in the Alzheimer's results, and when I search RW for it nothing comes up.

ConsumerLab has a question and answer about this topic .:

Do magnesium supplements help memory or protect against Alzheimer's disease?

Answer:
It’s true that magnesium plays an important role in brain cell functioning, and some preliminary studies suggest it may influence certain neural processes important for cognition (Slutsky, Neuron 2004; Hoane, Magnes Res 2008; Abumaria, J Neurosci 2011). However, it is unclear how much magnesium from supplementation reaches the brain, and there are no published clinical studies showing magnesium supplementation improves learning or memory, or protects against Alzheimer’s disease, in humans.

Much of the interest in magnesium supplements for these uses stems from a single study (funded in part by the maker of magnesium supplement Magtein™) that found rats given a particular form of magnesium , magnesium-L-threonate, performed significantly better on tests of long and short term memory (Slutsky, Neuron 2010). Magnesium-L-threonate also enhanced signaling of a specific part of brain receptors associated the ability to store information. The other forms of magnesium tested, including magnesium chloride, magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium gluconate, were not as efficient at raising magnesium levels in the central nervous system (as measured by levels in cerebrospinal fluid) and did not improve memory as well as magnesium-L-threonate. (Magtein's distributor, AIDP, Inc. claimed in 2011 that data from a human study would be published in 2012. As this has not been published as of mid-2014, ConsumerLab.com corresponded with AIDP which replied that "The study has been completed and is being prepared for publication.") (Update: As of January 7, 2015, no study appears to have been published in a peer-reviewed journal).

Another animal study that has been cited as evidence of magnesium’s role in preserving memory and potentially preventing Alzheimer’s disease (Wei, J Neurosci 2013) was retracted one year after publication due to calculation errors.

The bottom line: Magnesium plays an important role in brain cell function and some preliminary research suggests it may influence cognitive functions like memory and learning in animals, however, there is no evidence that taking magnesium supplements improves memory or learning, or prevents Alzheimer's disease in humans.

Magnesium supplements may be helpful for other conditions, like hearing loss and migraine, and use of certain medications can lower magnesium levels in the body. To learn more, including conditions and medications that may deplete magnesium levels, information about dosage, potential side effects, and tests of popular magnesium supplements, see the Magnesium Supplements Review >>



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Paul3756 June 7, 2015

Wei's retracted article concluded that "Our results suggest that elevation of brain magnesium exerts substantial synaptoprotective effects in a mouse model of AD and may have therapeutic potential for treating AD in humans."

However the retraction stated that "we discovered errors in the quantification of the expression and/or phosphorylation of a subset of signaling pathways, particularly related to Figures 4 and 5D. Despite these errors, the major conclusions of the paper remain substantiated."

So it appears there are two rat model studies supporting this supplement…

It's unfortunate that the human study is overdue…
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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby Stavia » Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:53 am

There is enormous pressure in the academic world to publish. Both financial and academic survival utterly depend on this. Of course there will be enormous temptation to cheat. This is one reason why I personally don't get excited about one trial and wait to see the results reproduced by multiple researchers. Secondly, it is now easy to do a small forray into looking at snp correlation with whatever strikes the researcher's fancy. I predict we will see thousands of these and most likely most will be dead ends for us. That's why I intend not to go exome diving. I'm not even 23andme data diving.

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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby Stavia » Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:57 am

Ps I was coerced as a young mum to enrol my baby in a trial of ketotifen to prevent asthma in kids who had an episode of bronchiolitis and wheeze and who had parents and siblings with asthma. The researcher thought he was doing me a favour and gave me the active syrup. I chucked it down the sink for 2 years and returned the empty bottles. My kid never got asthma. He's on the arm of the trial that proves success.
Be cynical. Be very cynical.

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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby circular » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:03 pm

Good explanations, precautions and example Stavia. I'm also skeptical of oversimplified genetic analysis. I sometimes look at my data and think about how it *might* be affecting me but while keeping the big picture in mind. Sometimes I think that's probably a waste of time. I should probably listen to that "inner voice"! It's those times something really stands out, like MAOA homozygote with histamine/histamine-like issues, that keeps me peeking at what may be the bigger players. Epigenetics and all that good stuff caveat ;-)
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Re: Peer Review Cautions

Postby RichardS » Wed Dec 09, 2015 3:31 pm

Stavia wrote:...it is now easy to do a small forray into looking at snp correlation with whatever strikes the researcher's fancy. I predict we will see thousands of these and most likely most will be dead ends for us. That's why I intend not to go exome diving. I'm not even 23andme data diving.


Seen this first hand in my field of behavioral genetics research. No genetic testing beyond APOE status for me for quite a while. The signal to noise ratio simply does not justify it in my mind.


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