Home / Science / Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent paper on vaccines and autism has been cited more than a thousand times. These researchers tried to figure out why.
Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent paper on vaccines and autism has been cited more than a thousand times. These researchers tried to figure out why.

Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent paper on vaccines and autism has been cited more than a thousand times. These researchers tried to figure out why.

Andrew Wakefield’s fraudulent paper on vaccines and autism has been cited more than a thousand occasions. These researchers tried to figure out why.

Elizabeth Suelzer

Retraction Watch readers are indubitably accustomed to one of the consequential retractions of this century, particularly that of the 1998 paper in The Lancet via Andrew Wakefield and others claiming a hyperlink between vaccines and autism. What they may additionally know is that the paper stays one of the extremely cited retracted articles of all time, as demonstrated via our leaderboard of such papers.

With that during thoughts, six librarians from establishments in Wisconsin had a query: ” What are the traits of citations of the retracted 1998 article via Wakefield et al that purported to display an affiliation between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism?” A paper describing their findings was once revealed on Friday in JAMA Network Open.

We requested corresponding writer Elizabeth Suelzer, of the Medical College of Wisconsin, to solution a number of questions in regards to the paper.

Retraction Watch (RW): Why did you make a decision to center of attention on the Wakefield paper, and what have been your findings?

Elizabeth Suelzer (ES): With the hot measles outbreaks across the United States and having noticed a very vocal anti-vax motion on social media, my crew was once all in favour of studying more in regards to the scholarly perceptions of the notorious retracted Wakefield paper. We have been all in favour of inspecting who was once mentioning the paper, the way in which they cited it (negatively or affirmatively), and whether or not researchers have been documenting the retracted standing of the object. Very quickly after the object was once to start with revealed, researchers started discovering vital flaws within the learn about design and famous that the effects weren’t reproducible. After the retractions of the learn about, more of the articles that cited the Wakefield learn about centered on the function the learn about performed in public belief and attitudes against vaccines. All-in-all, a majority of the references to the Wakefield learn about have been negational. It wasn’t very unexpected that few authors cited the 2004 partial retraction as a result of partial retractions are strange. We have been stunned to see that a vital collection of authors weren’t referencing the retracted standing of the paper after 2010. Even authors who used phrases reminiscent of “flawed” or “false” to describe the Wakefield paper didn’t all the time word the retracted standing of the paper. My workforce felt that documenting the retraction carries a large amount of weight in demonstrating that the findings have been fraudulent, and via lacking out on this vital piece of knowledge, folks is also underneath the belief that the paintings might be legitimate. The retraction of the Wakefield learn about could be very widely known and if authors are failing to word the retracted standing of this text, we’re involved that lesser recognized retracted articles are being cited with out documenting their retraction. 

RW: What function do endured citations of this paper play in public perceptions of vaccine protection? Are they equivalent to the function that a 1980 paper in NEJM — and that earned an editor’s word many years later — that downplayed the danger of opioid habit has performed over time?

ES: My crew learn the letter via Leung et al with nice pastime, and we use it for instance once we educate evidence-based drugs. Our learn about was once impressed via it. 

We really feel that almost all of researchers perceive the significance of vaccines and can simply articulate why the Wakefield learn about was once so improper. But for the ones unfamiliar with the analysis reminiscent of scholars, the ones from different disciplines, and the general public, the collection of citations this retracted learn about receives can also be deceptive. There turns out to be a disconnect between what happens throughout the medical group and how it’s communicated and shared with most people by the use of social media. This could also be obvious in public perceptions of the specter of international warming and gun violence. Scientists and researchers want to do a higher activity of creating their analysis findings more straightforward to perceive, emphasizing its relevance to most people, and making it meme-worthy for social media. 

While lots of the references to the Wakefield article are unfavourable, every new quotation is famous in databases like Google Scholar, Web of Science and Scopus. As quotation counts proceed to play a function in figuring out the importance or significance of a piece of writing (for higher or worse), even unfavourable citations will make certain that a piece of writing will get a upper rank in databases when the effects are looked after via quotation rely. We settle for the irony of engaging in a learn about on Wakefield’s paper and including but any other rely to its cited-by quantity.

RW: You write that “The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) notes that not all journals check the accuracy of references in submitted publications.” Should that vary?

ES: We recognize that it might be a sophisticated undertaking for journals to take a look at the accuracy of references for submitted articles, however journals want to hang authors in command of making sure that their references are correct.

RW: You word that “not all citation styles provide guidelines for citing retractions.” What would you suggest for such pointers?

ES: As a ways as we all know, the AMA taste is the one quotation taste that explicitly states how to cite a retracted article of their handbook. The APA offers some steerage on their web site, however now not of their handbook. We really feel that every one quotation kinds must supply steerage on how to cite this kind of reference.  At the bare-minimum, pointers must require the phrase “Retraction:” to seem earlier than the object name of a retracted article. 

RW: Although, for causes you describe, it’s continuously the case that authors have no idea about retractions, in relation to the Wakefield paper, the retraction is relatively well known. What do you assume leads to endured citations that don’t word the retraction?

ES: We known a collection of limitations in mentioning retracted articles in our article, however we really feel that the largest barrier occurs after downloading a retracted reference from the Internet into a quotation supervisor and mentioning the reference in Word. For instance, PubMed presentations a banner on retracted articles making its retracted standing very obvious. However, the “retracted” understand is buried when the quotation knowledge is imported into Zotero or EndNote, and it doesn’t display up within the mechanically generated bibliography access. Many authors are overly reliant on quotation managers to create their reference lists and won’t notice that knowledge is also lacking.

RW: You point out our partnership with Zotero, which “now includes an enhancement that will identify retracted articles that have been downloaded into a Zotero library,” however word that “not all citation management software includes this.” Would you suggest that different device reminiscent of Mendeley and EndNote imagine this type of capability?

ES: The fresh Zotero enhancement is a glorious factor. An article in my Zotero library could have been added via my library years in the past, however was once handiest lately retracted. Instead of striking the onus on the consumer to periodically take a look at the standing of references of their library, Zotero does it mechanically. All quotation managers must significantly imagine this capability.

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