Very Little New Light Shed on the Archives Meditation Paper Fiasco 1

Update, June 30- Jann Ingmire, the director of media relations for JAMA and the Archives Journals, sent the following clarification late this afternoon: “The authors submitted the additional data in a letter just prior to publication.  That letter was submitted by the authors in response to a request for changes from the NIH program director (not the journal).” This information is helpful, but it still does not shed any light on the substance of the problems with the Archives paper or the issue concerning the last-minute timing of events, and it raises a new question about the NIH’s involvement with this study.

Over on his blogs Retraction Watch and Embargo Watch, Ivan Oransky has published statements about the mystery of the disappearing paper from the editor of the journal that pulled the paper and the first author of the paper.   Unfortunately, the statements don’t really shed a whole lot of light on the unprecedented event, in which the publication of a paper was halted only 12 minutes before its scheduled debut.

Rita Redberg, the editor of  Archives of Internal Medicine told Oransky that she did not know when (if ever) a revised version of the paper would be published: “we are awaiting a revised version that contains additional data which must be reviewed and analyzed,” she said.

In response to Oransky’s question about peer review of the study, she said:

The study was peer reviewed, as are all Archives articles, and in general peer review works well as long as all data are provided as required by Instructions to Authors. We thought we had all the data when the manuscript underwent peer review, but it turned out there was additional data to be considered.

Here is the comment Oransky received from the first author of the paper, Robert Schneider:

This is a clarification of the status of our paper entitled, “Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education,” which was due to be published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

During the week prior to publication, the authors received additional requests for further clarification and data analyses from external reviewers.  This trial was complex in design and the authors are carefully considering and working to incorporate the additional input.   The authors wish to point out that the paper was carefully reviewed by both internal and external experts at all points along the way.  After a series of deliberations, the journal and authors agreed to revise the paper to include the supplemental information and resubmit to the journal for editorial review.  It should be emphasized that at each stage of the publication process, the paper underwent the normal procedures of peer review and followed the guidelines for publication in leading medical journals. The authors remain committed to publishing the highest quality scientific report.

Given that this study required nine years to conduct, the authors are pleased to take the additional time needed to review all relevant input and make revisions as necessary.

I don’t think we’re really any closer to understanding what has happened. Redberg says that the study authors did not include all the data that should have been included in the original submission, but it’s still unclear how this fact became apparent after the paper was not only peer reviewed, but then accepted, edited, and scheduled for publication. The authors state that in the week prior to publication they received “additional requests” from the external reviewers, but some important part of this story appears to be missing, since it is certainly not standard practice for reviewers to ask for additional information at such a late stage. It is also unusual for the peer reviewers to be communicating directly with the study authors, I should think.