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Unusual move: journal pulls paper 12 minutes before scheduled publication

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Larry Husten of Cardiobrief just tipped me off about this. He writes:

Here’s something I’ve never seen: 12 minutes before the scheduled publication of a paper the journal publishing the paper announced that it had “made the decision not to publish” the paper. Here’s what happened:

Last Thursday the JAMA/Archives media team issued a press package to accredited media about several articles scheduled for publication in Archives of Internal Medicine on Monday (today) at 4 PM ET. The package included a press release (see below) about an article, “Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in African Americans.” The first author was Robert Schneider, MD, from the Maharishi University of Management, Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa. Co-authors from the same institution were: Maxwell Rainforth PhD, Sanford Nidich. EdD, Carolyn Gaylord-King, PhD, John Salerno, PhD, and Charles Alexander, PhD. Two other authors, Clarence Grim and Theodore Kotchen are from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Today (Monday), at 3:48 PM ET, 12 minutes before the scheduled publication of the paper, the following message appeared in my inbox:

Subject: Important Notice from Archives of Internal Medicine — Please Open Immediately!

The editorial office of the Archives of Internal Medicine has made the decision not to publish, “Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in African Americans,” by Schneider et al, and the accompanying Commentary by Mehta and Bairey Merz that was to post Online First at 3 PM central time today.

The decision is to allow time for review and statistical analysis of additional data not included in the original paper that the authors provided less than 24 hours before posting. We apologize for the short notice, but hope you will understand and not run your stories on this study today.

Sincerely,

JAMA/Archives Media Relations

More details on the Cardiobrief blog.

What’s more strange is that I’m supposed to be on that mailing list as well, but I received no such message. As Husten predicts, we’ll likely be hearing much more about this.

ADDENDUM: See Husten’s followup piece on Tuesday, June 28.

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Kevin Lomangino

June 28, 2011 at 11:19 am

This study was the subject of a very enthusiastic story in the UK Telegraph which, if I recall correctly, did not mention the uncertainty associated with covering a study that hasn’t been published yet. I checked back to verify this and the story seems to have been taken down. While we don’t know how this will play out yet, it seems to support the need to look very cautiously on data that haven’t been presented for scientific scrutiny.