Analysis of Austim-Vaccine Link Study Officially Retracted

…Remember Brian Hooker’s absolutely incompetent “re-analysis” of a paper…that failed to find a correlation between age at MMR vaccination and autism?
I’m not going to go through just what’s wrong with Hooker’s “statistical” analysis…(but) it was a paper so bad that even a brand new journal like Translational Neurodegeneration considered retracting it…Now…the editors have finally made a decision. They’ve made it official and retracted Hooker’s paper:

The Editor and Publisher regretfully retract the article as there were undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process. Furthermore, post-publication peer review raised concerns about the validity of the methods and statistical analysis. Therefore, the Editors no longer have confidence in the soundness of the findings. We apologize to all affected parties for the inconvenience caused.

…(T)he (first) part…about “undeclared competing interests on the part of the author which compromised the peer review process” is interesting — I wonder what that means… (B)ased on my experience… as (both a) peer reviewer and as someone who has submitted manuscripts to (medical) journals…my guess…is that Hooker probably named one or more of his previous co-authors…as suggested reviewers, and the editor used one or more of them.

Since 2013, Hooker has published papers on vaccines and autism co-authored with Mark and David Geier…(who)…are advocates of chemical castration as a treatment for autism…(C)losely associated with the Geiers…are Janet Kern, an RN who used to publish on secretin; and Lisa Sykes, an antivaccine activist…who is and is known for harassing critical bloggers.

Now, I have no idea whether the editor would have double checked to see if Hooker had recently published with these suggested reviewers. Editors deal with a lot of manuscripts and might not do PubMed searches to verify whether any of the suggested reviewers have published with the author recently. It is the honor system for the most part: You just don’t suggest a reviewer for whom reviewing your manuscript would represent an obvious conflict of interest, nor do you agree to review an article for which you have a conflict of interest…
I really thought this paper deserved retraction. Of course, (it) will likely feed the conspiracy theorists of the antivaccine movement…(O)n the other hand, I don’t really care much about changing the minds of the…zealots at wretched hives of scum and quackery like Age of Autism or The Thinking Moms’ Revolution…What I do care about is persuading the general public, particularly the fence sitters, and a retraction of a scientific paper sends a powerful message to the public about a study.
Science wins this time. For now.

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