By David Tuller, DrPH
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I’ve been waiting to hear from the UK’s Health Research Authority about why seven papers from Professor Esther Crawley, Bristol University’s methodologically and ethically challenged grant magnet, have not been corrected–as mandated in a joint 2019 report from the HRA and her own academic institution. As many readers are aware, the joint report provided specific language to fix the ethics statements in 11 separate papers. But only four of the papers have been corrected.
As I suspected–the dog did eat the corrections! And all the associated correspondence as well. At least that’s how I interpret the information I received yesterday in an e-mail from the HRA, which gave an account of Bristol’s laughable explanation of what happened. In short, Bristol has thrown the journals under the bus. It’s all their fault!
I’ll have more to say in my response to the HRA and Bristol. For now, let’s just spend some time contemplating Bristol’s claims–that Professor Crawley requested the corrections but that the journals did not make them. Moreover, there is no record of any communications between her and the journals to support these assertions. Oops!
So it’s a mystery. Anyone have Miss Marple’s mobile number?
Further to our last email, we would like to provide you with an update on our investigation into the concerns you have raised with us.
Following receipt of your complaint, we contacted Bristol University to request an update on the progress of the corrections to the remaining seven research papers and confirmation as to when this would be complete. In their response, the University informed us that Professor Crawley had notified the relevant journal editors and funding bodies of the corrections in 2019, in accordance with the joint review’s recommendations. They reported that only four of the eleven journals implemented the changes. However, they could not provide copies of any correspondence with the journals.
It is important to highlight that the question as to whether such corrections are published reflects an editorial decision made by the journal editors; this is particularly of note when considering the historic nature of the publications involved. Nonetheless, we believe that it is important that people can trust research which has been approved by us. We are concerned that we do not have evidence of the journals being notified, or of their decisions.
In light of this, we have asked the University to re-notify the remaining journal editors of the seven unrevised ethics statements. If the journals decide not to publish the corrections, we have asked that this decision is communicated to us in writing to ensure that there is clarity / transparency as to why the recommended changes have not been implemented.
Information Governance Support Assistant
Health Research Authority