Scientists call for retractions

Animal research supporters say journal published 'propaganda' while an antivivisectionist was on editorial board

By | March 2, 2006

British supporters of animal research have called on the journal Biogenic Amines to retract a pair of articles they claim were motivated by antivivisection philosophy, not science. Simon Festing, executive director of the Research Defence Society (RDS), made the request in an Email sent to the journal's editor in chief, Hasan Parvez, last month. "We would like to state our deep concern that your journal is becoming a vehicle for extreme antivivisection propaganda," he wrote. The two papers in question were both published in 2005 and authored by Jarrod Bailey, scientific director of Europeans for Medical Progress (EMP), a group that says animal research is not supported by scientific evidence. In the first paper, entitled "The Future of Teratology Research is In Vitro," Bailey and two co-authors conducted a "comprehensive systematic review and analysis" of decades of data obtained from animal experiments, and argue that "these methods constitute questionable science and pose a hazard to humans." In the second report, entitled "Non-human primates in medical research and drug development: a critical review," Bailey's stated aim is to "provide some important balance against papers supporting non-human primate research and calling for it to be expanded." Festing told The Scientist that when he and his colleagues asked the journal about the peer-review process for the papers, they received a response from Claude Reiss, whom he described as "a known anti-vivisection sympathizer with connections to Animal Aid." Reiss is also a science consultant to EMP. "We ask you to consider retracting these two articles unless you can demonstrate they were properly peer reviewed by researchers with sufficient expertise, including independent researchers not known to have strong anti-vivisection views," Festing's Email read. In an Email response, Parvez told Festing that the journal aims to publish a variety of papers after peer review, and that the philosophy of the author did not enter into the equation. "However, in the past, we have insertion of an antivivisectionist, Claude Reiss, in the editorial board who did some of the editing," Parvez said in the Email. "After his 2 years stay in the editorial board, he did lots of harm to the journal and we all forced him to resign." However, Parvez said the papers in question could not be withdrawn because the journal's publisher had subsequently changed. When contacted by The Scientist, Parvez said via Email that the journal wanted to provide a reasonable opening for discussion of alternative testing methods, but also to encourage science and not polemic. "The insertion of Claude Reiss in our journal remains a very painful event," he said. For his part, Claude Reiss told The Scientist that Bailey's paper was peer reviewed, and that he was one of the referees-not the editor. "My opinion was that the paper was scientifically sound and matched the standards of the journal," he said. "I just asked for substantial deletions (the paper was way too long) which Dr Bailey actually did." Reiss added that, as a scientist, he only considers "rational arguments," not "antivivisectionist propaganda." Using animal models to study human health "was acceptable as long as no other method was at hand," he noted. "This is no longer the case, since modern science contributes methods, tools and concepts which allow [researchers] to bypass the 'model' step." Author Jarrod Bailey confirmed to The Scientist that the first paper had "absolutely" been peer reviewed. "When you're trying to publish something like that you have to go the extra mile to show you've been upfront and honest," he said. He added that a number of other journals had previously rejected the first paper. "The reviews that came back were absolutely outrageous," he said. "Without exception, the editors' comments were not about the scientific content, but about things like how often I used words like 'sacrificed' or 'euthanized.'" One he approached Biogenic Amines, he said, the comments from reviewers "were constructively critical." In fact, he said, the response to the publication of the first paper had been so positive that Parvez had contacted him directly and asked him to submit the critical review, which was not peer-reviewed. However, Parvez said that Claude Reiss had organized the second paper when he was in the editorial board, since Reiss treated alternative methods. Festing said that groups opposing animal research often use research papers for their own ends. "They trawl through the scientific literature looking for papers where people say 'it is hard to extrapolate from these results to humans.' Much of what they say [about those papers] is wrong or taken out of context." He said that RDS is contacted a couple of times a year by journals who want help assessing papers they think have been written with an antivivisection agenda. "We know they try to get articles published all the time," he said. "They will try many different methods to gain credibility." Stephen Pincock Links within this article Biogenic Amines Research Defence Society
Europeans for Medical Progress J. Bailey, et al, "The future of teratology research is in vitro," Biogenic Amines, May 2005. J. Bailey, "Non-human primates in medical research and drug development: a critical review," Biogenic Amines, 2005. UK Parliament, Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures, 2002. Andre Menache and Claude Reiss
S. Pincock, "Peta asks journal to retract paper," The Scientist, January 26, 2006. L. Netter, "UK rules against animal rights group," The Scientist, December 7, 2005.

Popular Now

  1. Thousands of Mutations Accumulate in the Human Brain Over a Lifetime
  2. Two Dozen House Republicans Do an About-Face on Tuition Tax
  3. Putative Gay Genes Identified, Questioned
    The Nutshell Putative Gay Genes Identified, Questioned

    A genomic interrogation of homosexuality turns up speculative links between genetic elements and sexual orientation, but researchers say the study is too small to be significant. 

  4. Can Young Stem Cells Make Older People Stronger?