from the did-someone-say-cyanide? dept
An important aspect of the academic publishing process is the facility to retract papers at a later date if the work turns out to have serious errors or -- in rare cases -- to be fraudulent. For many years, the site Retraction Watch has played an important role in keeping track of when papers are retracted -- and why. But even with that long experience, its writers were surprised by the following case:
It's not unusual for us to hear allegations that journals have caved to corporate demands that they retract papers. And companies have certainly objected to the publication of results that painted their products in an unflattering light.
Here's why the retraction was made:
But what we've never explicitly seen is a retraction notice that comes right out and says that they only reason a paper is being removed from the literature is that a company complained. That's the jaw-dropping case with "Visual defects among consumers of processed cassava (gari)," a paper published earlier this year in the African Journal of Food Sciences
The retraction is based on the fact that a Gari processing company has requested the retraction this paper from journal's website and publisher's database since it is crumbling their business inputs to their competitors leading to a drastic reduction in customers and consumers hence affecting their productivity and profitability.
Well, that's hardly a surprise given what the paper claimed:
The visual acuity of consumers of gari showed a significant decrease (P<0.05) when compared with that of the non consumers of gari. The incidence of color blindness is higher in gari consumers than the non consumers. Visual defects are correlated to the frequency of eating gari, for how long gari has been eaten and age. The high prevalence of visual defects among the consumers of gari may be due to the exposure to unsafe amount of cyanide in gari that was consumed over a long period of time.
Some comments to the post on Retraction Watch also raise questions about the validity of those results. But given the seriousness of the potential health issues, the correct response is surely to repeat the research with even greater rigor, rather than simply making the paper and its troubling results disappear.