I have a word of advice for an antivaxxer named Gayle DeLong. If you want to do an epidemiological study examining vaccines, don’t try to do it and write it up alone. The result will be a dumpster fire of a study, as it was a year and a half ago with your study of the effect of the HPV vaccine on female fertility. Last week, I learned that study was retracted. (Why it took a year and a half, I don’t know.) DeLong could have saved herself a lot of embarrassment if she had to heeded the following advice, which, if she ever tries to do a study like that again, I hope she will heed.
The advice? Don’t even start the study until you have (1) a statistician and (2) a real epidemiologist (not an epidemiologist wannabe like Brian Hooker) on board. That’s the bare minimum. It’s also useful to have scientists or medical professionals with real expertise in the area you’re studying. So, for instance, in the case of your study it would have been useful to have a real expert on the HPV vaccine and a real OB/GYN with experience doing population-based studies on board. They’re not essential, but highly desirable for a study of this type. It’s also highly desirable that the epidemiologist with whom you collaborate is familiar with the database that you intend to use, so that its shortcomings and oddities (every database has oddities) are known and accounted for. These bits of advice are especially critical if you are not a scientist or a physician, even more so if you are, as Gayle DeLong is, an Associate Professor of Economics and Finance in the Bert W. Wasserman Department of Economics and Finance at Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business who lists her subject matter expertise as finance. As I noted before, Delong did the analysis basically by herself with the help of an incompetent (David Geier), another economist (Sabastiano Manzano), and a professor of history who is her husband (Jonathan Rose), and she claimed sole authorship.
Of course, DeLong did none of those things, likely through a combination of hubris, ignorance, and having a predetermined result in mind, namely her “finding” (if you can call it that, given the poor quality of the analysis) that HPV vaccination is associated with decreased fertility in women. That’s why it ended up being retracted, as described over at Medscape by Dr. Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch. Noting criticism from Yours Truly and an microbiologist named Elisabeth Bik. Dr. Oransky then describes how DeLong’s study ended up being retracted:
Today, the journal retracted the paper. “Following review and publication of the article, we were alerted to concerns about the scientific validity of the study,” the journal writes in its retraction notice. “As a result, we sought advice on the methodology, analysis and interpretation from a number of experts in the field.
“All of the post-publication reports we received described serious flaws in the statistical analysis and interpretation of the data in this paper, and we have therefore taken the decision to retract it,” the notice continues.
It’s a decision I agree with that’s taken too long:
The retraction “is the correct decision,” Bik told Medscape Medical News. “This paper was used by many people to ‘prove’ that the HPV vaccine caused infertility in young women, but in reality the paper had some severe flaws. Although the author does not use the word ‘infertility’ to talk about the effects of the vaccine, her study has been used amongst anti-vaxx groups to ‘show’ that the HPV vaccine causes infertility. This made a lot of parents anxious [about getting] their kids vaccinated against HPV.”
Precisely. DeLong’s paper was custom-designed to provide support to the false antivaccine claim that HPV vaccination decreases female fertility and to be consistent with the even more bogus claim that HPV vaccination can result in premature ovarian failure. There’s no evidence that HPV vaccination causes primary ovarian insufficiency (and strong evidence that it is not at all associated with POI), as much as antivaxxers keep producing crappy studies to claim that it does, nor is there evidence that it affects female fertility.
Amusingly, DeLong decided to respond to the retraction yesterday, not in a scientific journal, not in a statement to Retraction Watch or Medscape, but rather in that wretched hive of scum and antivaccine villainy, the antivaccine propaganda blog disguised as an autism advocacy blog, Age of Autism:
On October 23, 2019, I received an email stating that Taylor & Francis and Editor-in-Chief Dr. Sam Kacew had opened an investigation of the paper, based on “several public and private expressions of concern about flaws in analysis.” They gave me two weeks to respond to comments from four post-publication reviewers, and I did so. On December 10, 2019, I received an email from Taylor and Francis stating that despite my comments, the “concerns raised by the reviewers still stand,” and they were retracting the article. Since the retraction, the number of views has increased to 24,227.
I’m amused, yet not amused. She’s basically bragging that the number of views of her paper has increased thanks to the publicity, as in: All publicity is good publicity. Maybe it is—to antivaxxers. Yet, the abstract and paper are still there on the journal’s website, just with a small notice of retraction at the bottom that says at the end that the article will “remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as ‘Retracted.'” I’m not sure what the point of doing that is.
DeLong also thinks she’s been treated very, very unfairly:
In the retraction notice (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15287394.2019.1669991), Taylor & Francis state that all post-publication reviews, “described serious flaws in the statistical analysis and interpretation of the data in this paper” without going into any detail. However, one of their reviewers determined that I had been careful with the limitations and conclusions of the paper. That reviewer agreed with me that an open debate concerning the findings of the paper specifically as well as vaccine safety in general is essential.
The manner in which Taylor and Francis is handling these post-publication criticisms is highly unusual. Typically, if a researcher sees a flaw in a published paper, he or she openly writes a letter to the editor, to which the author can reply. Both the critique and the reply are published in the journal.
Sometimes. Maybe that’s the way things are done in economics, finance, and business journals. In science journals, if a paper is fraudulent or so flawed that it is worthless, retraction is generally the course of action taken. It’s a course of action that’s taken far too infrequently, if anything. As for DeLong’s appeal to “open debate” is the same appeal science denialists of all stripes make in order to sow doubt and give the impression that they represent a scientifically valid viewpoint.
A basic principle of medical ethics holds that if there is evidence that a treatment, drug or vaccine may be dangerous, even if that evidence is not conclusive, we must investigate those possible problems until we have settled the question one way or another. Suppressing studies simply because we disagree with them only stifles legitimate scientific debate. My paper did not claim to offer a final answer to this issue. It simply raised concerns and called for further investigation into a question that may have an enormous impact on the reproductive health of millions of women.
So basically, DeLong is admitting that in her paper she was JAQing off and claiming scientific uncertainty where there really isn’t any. Not only is it biologically implausible that HPV vaccination would decrease fertility or cause primary ovarian insufficiency, HPV is not associated with decreased fertility.
So let’s see DeLong’s responses to specific criticisms. I’m going to go a bit out of order, because one of them stood out to me, her response to the criticism that there could have been selection bias:
Validity questionable: The issues of selection bias, lack of similar observations in USA and Europe, weak biological plausibility and inaccurate statement regarding dose response are all factors that raise doubts regarding the data.
These criticisms are flat out wrong. No selection bias exists: I use every observation where the person surveyed includes answers to all the questions I use in the analysis. There are similar observations in Europe: In a separate study, I show that birth rates are falling in European countries that have implemented wide-spread HPV vaccine programs. That study is here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21645515.2019.1622977 Not only does biological plausibility exist, studies continue to be published that point to a link between the autoimmunity that vaccines can induce and fertility issues. The statement regarding dose response in the paper is correct: I confirmed my interpretation with two independent statisticians.
First off, if these alleged statisticians were not included as authors on this paper, their “contribution” to me is pretty much meaningless. Does anyone want to bet that these statisticians were business statisticians in her department and don’t have a lot of experience with mining databases like this to do epidemiology? If these statisticians didn’t do enough work to merit authorship on DeLong’s paper, then who knows what they did? If authorship was offered and they didn’t want to put their names on the paper, that tells me that they did very little work or that they don’t have enough confidence in the results to associate their name with the paper. Neither is a good look.
DeLong also clearly doesn’t understand the concept of selection bias, which is a problem in any epidemiological study and can be a problem in a clinical trial. Here’s the thing. Selection bias does not mean that you selected subjects in a biased fashion, at least not intentionally. It is used to refer to the bias that can be introduced such that the group of subjects chosen may differ in ways other than the interventions or exposures under investigation. Sometimes selection bias can be corrected for imperfectly by controlling for confounders, sometimes it can’t. However, to correct for selection bias you actually have to be aware of the possibility that it might exist in how you selected your study population. DeLong is blissfully unaware and only addresses the possibility when it’s pointed out to her.
Be that as it may, her study design also completely ignored at least two huge confounding factors. The first comes from which age groups DeLong decided to look at, as Elisabeth Bik described on PubPeer:
The 2 groups also differ in a very important confounding factor, i.e. % college degree. The HPV vaccinated women had a significantly higher percentage of college degree than the non-vaccinated group. This is a huge confounding factor. Women with a college degree have babies at a higher average age (30.3y) than women without a college degree (23.8y). Here is a graph based on 2016 data from the National Center for Health Statistics data from 2016 (source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/08/04/upshot/up-birth-age-gap.html), illustrating this difference:
The author limited here study on women aged 25-29, which is below the average age that women with a college degree have their first baby (see #3). If you limit the study group to women <30 years old, that means that the average women with a college degree did not have their first baby yet. This age group is chosen too narrow to make any correlations with the vaccination status.
To be honest, in my original analysis of this dumpster fire of a paper, I missed this confounder. I am very much chastened and embarrassed that I didn’t pick up on it, but then I’m not the person who did the study. So should DeLong because she is the person who did the study, but instead she just denies that it’s a problem:
Methodological Issues: Potential confounders are not accounted for or simply ignored such as an economic downturn, societal trends including postponing pregnancy, increased women in the workforce, changes in contraceptive use, contraceptive failure rates, etc. All these factors impact pregnancy but were not addressed.
The trends mentioned in this criticism address the decline in the overall birth rate. The value of my study is that each observation identifies whether a woman received the HPV vaccine and whether that woman had ever been pregnant. To confirm that overall trends were not influencing the results, I added time trends to the statistical analysis and the results remained: Women who received the HPV vaccine were less likely to have ever been pregnant.
Again, this is not a persuasive answer, because of the choice of age range. If you have confounders unaccounted for, time trends won’t necessarily correct for those confounders. As for biological plausibility, the publication cited by DeLong is a letter in response to criticism, not original research. It’s basically her putting her spin on fertility data, breaking it down by age, with no statistical analysis and the use of statistics from countries she cherry picked. As for her claim that “studies continue to be published that point to a link between the autoimmunity that vaccines can induce and fertility issues,” I can’t argue with that such studies do continue to be published. They’re crappy studies by antivaccine and antivaccine-adjacent hacks like Yehuda Shoenfeld, Lucija Tomljenovic, and Christopher Shaw.
The other major confounder not accounted for, of course, was birth control use, which I did spend considerable time discussing in my original analysis and which her answer does not convincingly address. In order to save myself some time, I’ll just quote myself:
There’s also another huge problem with this study. One of the most important covariates that could impact pregnancy rates is (obviously) usage of contraception. Yet nowhere in the analysis is there a consideration of contraception usage. Yes, Delong brings up the lack of statistical significance of the results among never-married women by suggesting that maybe most of them want to avoid pregnancy (which could be true), but, again, contraceptive use is an incredibly important factor, which was not even included as a covariate. My first thought was that maybe it was a question that wasn’t asked. It’s possible. Oh, wait. It’s not. The questionnaire asks whether a female has ever used oral contraceptives, if she is taking them now, and how long she’s taken them. So why did Delong not include oral contraceptive use in her analysis? She could have. She doesn’t even really discuss it other than discussion of contraceptive failure rates. I strongly suspect there was a reason for this. I also strongly suspect that a correlation between HPV uptake and oral contraceptive use (which is not unreasonable to hypothesize) could explain the results Delong observed and that correcting for oral contraceptive use in the survey sample would likely have resulted in the results of the logistic regression no longer being statistically significant. In fairness, if the correlation is not positive but negative (i.e., HPV vaccination is associated with less oral contraceptive use), the results could be more robust than what DeLong found.
In any case, I can see only two explanations for Delong’s not having done this analysis, given that the data appear to have been available. Either she was clueless and didn’t even consider it as a covariate, or she did some exploratory analyses and with contraceptive use included the effects that she saw disappeared. After all, they weren’t very robust; so I suspect that it wouldn’t take much. I welcome comments from the epidemiologists who read this blog. After all, existing evidence largely contradicts Delong’s findings, with HPV vaccination having no effect on fertility except in one group. The group? In females with a history of sexually transmitted infections or pelvic inflammatory disease (i.e. a group at high risk of exposure to HPV infection), HPV vaccination made pregnancy more likely.
So what’s her answer? Again, it’s not convincing. In response to a criticism about her using the SAS software package and that “authors do not provide criteria for including or excluding variables which is crucial,” DeLong writes:
The variables I include – age, income, education, and race/ethnicity – are standard demographic and socioeconomic factors that could affect the probability of ever being pregnant.
Concerning contraception, the NHANES database contains fragmentary data. The survey includes questions on only three types of contraception, and many women provided no response to the questions. Certainly, a follow-up study to determine whether contraceptive use influences the results is warranted, but it is beyond the scope of this database and this paper. Certainly, further study is warranted.
I won’t address whether SAS was appropriate for the analysis being done. (Maybe mavens of the various major statistical software packages can chime in.) I will admit to being amused by her response to an observation that “this package cannot judge the validity of the questions asked”:
The data used in the analysis come from the U.S. government. If the responses to questions asked in the course of a national survey sponsored by the U.S. government are not valid, why ask the questions?
I think what the reviewer’s criticism means is simple, and it has nothing to do with whether SAS was the appropriate software to carry out the statistical analysis. If she doesn’t know what she’s doing, any fool can enter any data and covariates into SAS that she wants and run as many analyses comparing them and looking for correlations, whether the analyses have any grounding in reality or not. To SAS, it’s all just numbers. It takes an epidemiologist and statistician to judge the validity of the questions being asked, the variables chosen, and the correlations being tested. Software can only crunch the numbers—and crunch only the numbers entered only exactly as the investigator instructs it to. Only someone who knows what she’s doing can determine if the software is the right tool, if the correct numbers are being entered, and if the correct analyses are being carried out.
As for the missing responses to questions about contraception in the database used, if only there were…statistical methods for accounting for missing responses on surveys.
I’m sure my statistician friends would be happy to help Ms. DeLong out. In any event, if the data were truly too fragmentary to account for contraceptive use as a confounder, then that should have been explicitly stated, along with what percentage of responses are missing. It should also have been pointed out that the results observed could easily have been due to differences in contraceptive use. Including that discussion would have shown that DeLong had at least thought about these issues. She didn’t mention them, which led me to believe that she either hadn’t thought about them or, worse, had done preliminary attempts to control for contraceptive use as a confounding variable and found the differences in pregnancy rates that she had observed disappear. As for “only three” methods of contraception being used? I’m guessing oral contraceptives, barrier devices (condom, etc.), and IUDs would account for the vast majority of contraceptive methods. Even if they didn’t, contraception use is a confounder that had to be addressed. DeLong didn’t even address it in the paper to explain why the NHANES data couldn’t be used to address it.
In the end, none of DeLong’s responses or explanations is convincing. She’s a hack, a finance expert deciding that she can do epidemiology, which to me makes her even more of a hack than Brian Hooker, a biochemical engineer turned wannabe epidemiologist. (At least Hooker had some scientific training and must have taken some basic biostatistics.) In her arrogance of ignorance, her Dunning-Kruger came to full fruition, and she paid the price. Not that that has changed the mind of antivaxxers. Just read the comments after her AoA article. Or better yet, don’t.
135 replies on “Gayle DeLong responds to the retraction of her dumpster fire of a study on HPV vaccination and fertility”
Orac advises De Long to enlist assistance from a statistician, epidemiologist and scientific/ medical experts BUT
what makes you think that anyone with real expertise would want to have anything to do with her briiliant ideas?
Well, the fact that she claims to have run her findings by two epidemiologists but they aren’t credited in the paper, either as authors or in the Acknowledgments section tells me a lot.
Following Orac’s advice would likely have undermined her goal in doing this at all, which as Orac said was to show HPV vaccines are bad.
In the comments section, is a comment from Martin J Walker, among other things, a long-time denier that HIV causes AIDS. For years he wrote for a newsletter claiming such, a newsletter that closed when the Editors died of???, you guessed it AIDS. He has also written articles on various other “newsletters”, some with Andrew Wakefield as editor. His comment links to an article that lists Peter Duesberg as one of the experts. Duesberg is a chemist, one of the co-discoverers of the first retrovirus to cause a disease, cancer in chickens. He has NO background in immunology nor infectious diseases; but claims the HIV virus, which he admits exists, is too weak to cause anything. An interesting aside, a group of antivaccinationists in Australia posted a prize for anyone who could even “prove” the existence of HIV. Duesberg applied and was rejected despite that electron microscopy of HIV already existed. Martin J Walker has in the past written articles for Age of Autism. Don’t you love it, not only antivaccinationists; but HIV/AIDS denial as well. The article Walker links to attacks the effectiveness of retrovirals as well, despite that the newest have resulted in normal T cell counts and cases where HIV can’t even be found in the blood, and exponential elimination of AIDS cases and there is an AIDS vaccine that, though NOT 100% effective, the antivaccinationists minimal standard, it does reduce the risk considerably and there even exists a prophylactic to prevent HIV infection during unprotected intercourse.
And Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, has written a detailed explanation of why the paper was retracted: Study Claiming Link Between HPV Vaccine, Pregnancy Rates Pulled. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/922413
And John Stone, UK “Editor” of Age of Autism commented: “How many more times is a paper likely to be retracted if it offends the vaccine lobby?”
Stone has NO understanding of research methodology, his litmus test for the validity of a study and the integrity of the author is whether the study confirms his rigid, unscientific, illogical beliefs. So, any retraction of a study that confirms his beliefs can’t possibly be because it was a SHIT study, must be “vaccine lobby.”
From DeLong’s website: “Gayle DeLong, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Economics and Finance in the Bert W. Wasserman Department of Economics and Finance at Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business. Dr. DeLong has published in leading journals, including Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Journal of International Money and Finance, Financial Management, and Journal of Financial Research. Research interests include bank acquisitions, regulatory capture, and conflicts of interest. DeLong, the 2013 recipient of the Abraham J. Briloff Prize in Ethics as well as the 2010 recipient of the Zicklin School of Business Teaching Excellence Award, holds a PhD in finance and international business from New York University.”
Well, expertise in finance and international business, certainly all that is needed to compensate for no education in immunology, microbiology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, the history and current status in the world of vaccine-preventable diseases. I guess I should check out one of her finance papers and critic it, after all I’ve NEVER taken a single course in finance or read a book???
How “ethical” is it to dedicate your life to producing incompetently designed and executed studies demonizing vaccines?
Well, I had to see for myself: Gayle DeLong was the Abraham J Briloff Award in Ethics faculty winner in 2012 for a paper entitled “Conflicts of Interest in Vaccine Safety Research” (https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/facultyhandbook/BriloffPrizes.htm). The citation is behind a paywall though from the summary it seems the main topic conflict of interest as regards vaccines and autism.
Given how wrong she is about HPV and infertility (despite right evidence to the contrary), and that ethics is the branch of the philosophy concerned with right and wrong, maybe an award retraction is in her future?
It’s not exactly a prestigious award, as it appears to be open solely to faculty and students of Baruch College, which appears to be known as a business school and a “good value” college. Neither of these are bad things, but I would be skeptical of the award judges’ ability to evaluate the paper as anything more than an interesting read to the uninformed.
It should be, Moose. It took me two seconds to get access to this article. I love working in academia 🙂
Her article is full of the typical anti vax tropes. For example, the one where antivaxxers complain about how much money Big Pharma makes off pediatric vaccines . . . but not addressing profits. Sales and profits are not the same thing.
Then there’s the old saw about the Vaccine Court where she lies her ass off and claims that the NCVIA gives Big Pharma an incentive not to research vaccine safety. I also find it hilarous that she thinks the only thing that prompts industry to research safety is the threat of lawsuits. Certainly litigation is a strong motivator for corporations but that does not mean its the only motivator.
I won’t bore everyone tearing it apart. She wrote this in 2012. It’s the collection of usual anti vax innuendo, long on supposition and short of facts. Oh, she touches on some of the very real problems with Big Pharma’s influence on drug research and approvals. But she doesn’t make a convincing case that medical scientists don’t care about vaccine safety, don’t research vaccine safety, or ignore real problems with vaccines.
Who ever gave this article an award for ethics should have their head examined. Clearly they didn’t research the issue before giving the award.
RFKJ also offers a PDF if anyone wants to perform the trivial title search.
The “three COIs” bit, after which I stopped reading, was just painfully ill assembled.
Remember this is the woman who assumed every child getting speech/language intervention in school also had an autism diagnosis. Which would have been quite a surprise to the deaf/hard-of-hearing kids that got services in the elementary school my kids went to. Some of my kids’ friends had hearing aids. There is a lost pair of colorful hearing aids somewhere in this house.
That program had 80 kids from preschool through fifth grade when my first kid went there in the early 1990s. By the time my youngest finished there, it was down to around six kids. Some of the loss was the school district charging suburbs who sent their special ed. schools to the city district much more money per child (essentially, telling them to provide services in their district instead of bussing them elsewhere). Then there was an even greater loss of those students due to the effect of Hib vaccination. There is still a population, some forms are genetic. But it got small enough to be moved to a more centrally located K-8 school.
Now the pro-disease faction will cry that we are destroying Deaf Culture by preventing causes of deafness like measles, mumps, Hib, etc.
She should return her ethics prize. Clearly she has none, if she wrote such a dishonest paper.
She should have included her statisticians as co-authors since she didn’t run the numbers herself. Unless of course, they didn’t want to be included which makes me wonder why that might be.
For some ultimate irony, I just found that DeLong is on the “Distinguished Advisory Board” of an organization calling itself the “Alliance for Human Research Protection” (AHRP, https://ahrp.org/advisory-board/), whose mission includes upholding the Nuremburg Code of 1947 regarding unethical research on humans without voluntary informed consent. Pretty much every pathetic bottom-feeding journal publishing anti-vaxxer we know belongs to this hive, and just to show you how absolutely awful this group is, on their “Honor Roll of Exemplary Professionals” is none other than Wakefraud.
Clearly they know nothing about research ethics.
Oh, I’ve been meaning to look into this group more for a while.
Well, in the waning days of 2019 I found my winner of the Most Ironic List of the Year Award: the AHRP Honor Roll (https://ahrp.org/honor-roll/).
I speculate that both Frances Oldham Kelsey and Florence Nightingale, if alive today, would request removing their names from a list that also includes Diane Harper and Andrew Wakefield…
Posthumous honors are never refused in the same vein that dead scientists are claimed to have recanted their work and absurd words put into the mouths of dead luminaries and then repeatedly quoted without any objection heard from the corpses. Many play this game.
If only someone would write a blogpost about the AHRP…
The “Distinguished Advisory Board” is very rich in the likes of integrative medicine, anthroposophy and homeopathy. Some familiar faces include Christopher Exley, Sin Hang Lee, Toni Bark and (shudder) Christopher Shaw.
Posthumous honors are never refused
What brought the AHRP to wider attention was their habit of enlisting live people onto their Board of Directors and Scientific Advisory panel without always bothering to consult them. It seems that “informed consent” is not required for some things.
Well, that was interesting reading! I noted that Christopher Shaw is back at it, co-authoring a paper with a creationist. Funny thing is that’s not the first time he’ done this. His erstwhile co-author and research fellow Lucija Tomljenovic had a religious revelation that included her recognition of the “lie of evolution”.
So why is this? Does working with Shaw turn you into a creationist? Is Shaw so desperate for co-authors that he has to end up with anti-scientific nutbars?
Inquiring minds (mine anyway) need to know.
Some familiar faces include Christopher Exley, Sin Hang Lee, Toni Bark and (shudder) Christopher Shaw.
The list of Distinguished Advisors could be used as a Respectful Insolence Bingo card.
I will add that DeLong ignores, in her response, a large study that looked at this issue and found no link. You mention the lack of evidence behind Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, but it’s not that there isn’t evidence for it: there’s strong evidence against it. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30131438
OMG–the first thing I thought while reading the first bits was, “birthrates are falling in many countries because women use contraception”–duh! How could this possible not be a major factor? I have vry little background in statistics or epidemiology–or finance for that matter.
Her only real rebuttal is a false equivalency argument.
It’s almost like there’s a connection between access to birth control and access to health care like the HPV vaccine….
One of the first things I try to do is draw a directed acyclic graph (DAG) to make sure that I’m taking into account everything that is associated with the exposure and the outcome, and both, and none. That right there would have been the first hint that maybe they failed to include confounders, effect modifiers and such. It doesn’t surprise me, though. We all know that BS Hooker seems to prefer “less elegant” (meaning simple and useless?) statistical analyses.
Any epidemiologist worth their salt would have pointed out at least one of the things you did, Orac, and any researcher worth their salt would have held off on submitting to publication until those concerns were addressed.
But that’s par for the course for antivaxxers: Deny, deny, deny and double-down on the lie.
“The age of autism”. Why does this woman not go onto YouTube and look at the videos from Professor Simon Baron Cohen? Why does she not brush her teeth with Superglue?
Ironically, DeLong and her supporters ignore a very real correlation – the one between HPV infection and obstetric complications.
Treatments for HPV-induced dysplasias or invasive cancers have potential for degrading or eliminating the possibility of a successful term pregnancy.
For some reason this doesn’t bother antivaxers.
There’s an old stereotype that doctors are hopeless when they venture into finance. Looks like the reverse is true as well.
Practitioners of the dismal science should tread lightly in the less-dismal sciences.
So what the study actually showed is that HPV vaccines cause college degrees? I sure wish that had been around when I was the right age for it …
When, oh when, will people learn that correlation does not equal causation? I don’t even need to be an associate professor of anything to understand that.
I can’t imagine that merely using SAS is a problem as that is a powerful statistics package that many, if not most professional statisticians use. So I think you’re right in that it comes down to operator error and not the software itself. It is very telling that she chose AoA to issue her rebuttal. Anti-vaxx “scientists” cannot complain about having their work accepted by the scientific community when they clearly conduct their “studies” for a narrow, niche audience.
Whether one uses SAS, SPSS, STATA or any statistical program, it is which of the analyses in them one chooses. For instance, as Hooker did, using a Chi-square, which assumes independence, for a study using matching controls will give the wrong answer. Years ago I used all of the above and others. They all are quite good.
Though not relevant, I preferred STATA, except SAS also had a good database management, so, if one already had all the data in some database program, I liked STATA. But this was years ago, so I’m sure ALL have evolved.
I like STATA for epi studies, but I use JMP (a subset of SAS) for all my statistics/graphing at work. It’s by far the best system I’ve used, maybe not as powerful as R but much more user friendly.
But no matter how good your statistical software, it can’t force you to chose the right analysis.
“Don’t even start the study until you have”
Just to add to this (talking to the choir, mind you…!). Computational biologists (like me) have encouraged biologists (properly trained ones!) to include statisticians, bioinformatics people, etc., at the planning stage. That way the study is more likely to be designed correctly. It’s a bit of pain when people come asking for specialists after a study has started, as that quite often involves a “rescue” effort, to—somehow—fix up a badly-designed study. Much better to have them on in the planning/design stage!
These days that “encouragement” job is most done, esp. as now grant committees generally insist there is specialist input to the design stage and that applicants show that’s been done. (It wasn’t always the case!!)
As more general advice, I’ve seen well-meaning efforts from ‘serious’ economists, philosophers, engineers, etc., applying themselves to biological data over 30+ years. Unless they’ve done many years already in the area, they too often offer something that is so wide of the mark that actual biologists just try politely ignore it. You’ve got to do the hard yards, or collaborate. Biology and analysis of biological data is far too big a thing to take on casually and expect to get it right, never mind offer deep insights.
“Unless they’ve done many years already in the area, they too often offer something that is so wide of the mark that actual biologists just try politely ignore it.”
We have noticed that behavior. One example is Brian Hooker who “re-did” the statistics of a paper very badly. He has a PhD in chemical engineering and did work in botany, and this is what he did: https://www.respectfulinsolence.com/2018/12/12/brian-hookers-antivaccine-pseudoscience-has-risen-from-the-dead-to-threaten-children-again/
There is another person with an actual PhD in statistics who works for manufacturer of carbon fiber structures. Not exactly bio-stats. This person’s modus operandi is to fly in here with questions about vaccines, but always refuses the answer. Also they are not a fan of the Belmont Report.
Typically, if a researcher sees a flaw in a published paper, he or she openly writes a letter to the editor, to which the author can reply. Both the critique and the reply are published in the journal.
Here “typically” is used in the special sense of “how I’d like things to be”, and “openly” is used in the special sense of “not openly unless the journal decides to accept the letter”.
Delong’s real reason for writing “openly” is to imply that comments in a Pubpeer thread (which anyone can read and respond to) are by contrast somehow covert, underhanded, surreptitous and a tool of Big Pharma machinations.
And of course nothing to do with the fact that she’s out of her depth and will have her lunch eaten by commentors there.
DeLong did indeed comment at Pubpeer.
Lunch was eaten.
Whiny thing isn’t she?
From DeLong at Pubpeer. Of course no public health official would contact her, why would they but of course, many unnamed physicians contacted her. And next to nothing regarding her dodgy stats. Stay in your lane DeLong if you don’t want to be embarrassed.
I just went through the Pubpeer comment thread, I loved the one just before DeLong’s whine Neureclipsis Napaea. It was thorough and revealing, apparently this is someone who has had many scares due to Pap Smears with anomalous results requiring more tests.
As someone who spent lots of time in speech/language therapy waiting/observation rooms so much that my youngest kid* was almost born in one, I was flabbergasted when DeLong wrote a paper that seemed to assume every kid getting Speech/Language Intervention in a school had autism. Um, no. Especially not the deaf/hard of hearing kids. There are many many speech/language disorders, including many that do not have to do with intelligence.. or anxiety… or autism. Even before my oldest was born I interacted with a brilliant mathematician at work who had a terrible stutter. I realized all I had to do was sit there and listen because I would actually learn something. (this is also the accommodation my oldest son needs when he speaks)
My younger son and I think that kid was imprinted by SLP’s by at least five years of twice a week exposure because that is now their chosen career. 🙂 … I am super proud of that kid. I am proud of all of my kids.
That shade is lovely to behold. Scientific and anecdotal too. Odd how alties, who adore their anecdotes, overlooked that. But then, the only cohort they really care about is N=1.
Just curious, if all scientific studies were seriously put through a scrutiny wringer, what percentage do the folks here feel could be retracted for one reason or another? 10, 30, 50% — more?! Seriously!
All of them, published in reputable journals, are…..
Florence Nightingale wept.
There are 2-3 million scientific papers published each year, of which .02% are retracted, according to the following article.
It’s a very good thing that there’s increasing scrutiny of published studies, and knowledgeable people skilled at detecting image manipulation and other telltale defects and willing to call out study authors and complain to journals.
There’s a good opportunity for recognition and praise for efforts to uncover fraud and misconduct (applause here for Elisabeth Bik) as well as honest errors, much like the positive attention given to researchers who debunk previously published research. This goes against alties’ belief that everyone in the scientific community covers up each others’ flaws.
Antivaxers should also note that, in the words of one well-known skeptic, “flaws in aircraft design do not prove the existence of magic carpets”.
“(Ivan) Oransky (of Retraction Watch) said climate change doubters have “seized on (the work he and Marcus do on Retraction Watch) as a good case study why you should question everything about climate change research.” Questioning is good, he said, but (a) handful of missing facts don’t negate the large body of climate change research that exists.”
Antivaxers, like everyone else have had golden opportunities to point out retraction-worthy defects in published research supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccines. I know of zero cases in which the gross methodologic/analytical defects and/or ethical misconduct which have plagued antivax ”research” have turned up in papers which back immunization.*
*but that’s probably because of the Pharma-A.M.A.-Bill Gates-Illuminati Conspiracy. 🙁
Antivaxers, like everyone else have had golden opportunities to point out retraction-worthy defects in published research supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccines. I know of zero cases in which the gross methodologic/analytical defects and/or ethical misconduct which have plagued antivax ”research” have turned up in papers which back immunization.
Really? I know of one where the lead researcher came out and admitted that they failed to follow the study’s protocol, and ommited reporting significant findings. It hasn’t been retracted. Go figure!
Beating a dead horse again? Yeah, been there, done that….
First, second, and last – Thompson wasn’t the “Lead Researcher.” So, since you have to lie to make your point, the point is moot.
Well, Greg, where’s the link?
Do you really sit there week after week in the basement, thinking that your supposedly clever zingers are going to cause a collective epiphany?
All bow to the Failmaster.
That’s kinda the point. Gerg says and does whatever gains him the most attention. It’s what he lives for. It’s all he lives for. Feed at yr peril.
C’mon, Brain and Lawrence! Tell me with a straight face that if the Thompson paper was an antivaxx one, after Thompson’s confession, it wouldn’t have been retracted faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100m dash.
It wasn’t “Thompson’s paper.”
Again, if you have to lie to make your point, the point is moot.
Lawrence, if that paper was an antivaxx one, and if Thompson was just the mere janitor that brought in the garbage can to trash documents, after his confession, that paper would’ve still been retracted faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100m dash.
“Again, if you have to lie to make your point,…”
If Greg didn’t lie he’d never post.
Still grasping at straws….watching you flounder is just so much fun.
Just for fun, maybe we should also solicit King Lear for his take on whether Thompson’s paper is retraction worthy. Lear is on the other thread howling about feeling young again. Oh Joel! — setting aside all the ‘abuse’ you’re suffering at my hands, do you also feel Thompson’s paper was kosher?
Thompson claimed the paper did not include a subgroup analysis of afro-american boys under 3. It was then claimed by antivaccinationists that CDC shredded the data. But the CDC not only maintained the data; but offered it to researchers. One of those playing up Thompson’s claim, Brian Hooker, actually obtained the data and then performed the wrong statistical analysis on it.
Back to subgroup analysis. In statistics one uses a cut-off point, e.g. p = 0.05 which means the result one obtained could only have been caused by chance, unmeasured variables, 5% of the time. Well, when one conducts multiple statistical analysis on a data set, a similar statistic applies. First, the number of afro-american boys under 3 was very small, too small in fact with wide confidence intervals. Second, One uses such sub-analyses at best to generate hypotheses for future research. I could go on with more info; but I doubt you would understand it or even want to. Bottom line, Thompson stood by the rest of the article.
You really suffer from delusions of grandeur thinking I suffer abuse at your hands. I just find people like you pathetic, ignorant, poorly educated, suffering from delusions of grandeur. And, almost every single person monitoring this blog agrees with me.
Oh, by the way, it wasn’t Thompson’s paper. He was one of the co-authors, listed third. You can’t even get something this simple right.
I forgot to also explain that such subgroup analyses are most often conducted after the planned analyses. Quite simply they are exploratory to possibly develop hypotheses for future studies.
There has also been some papers that explained Thompson’s state of mind, unhappy because of his position at CDC and also that he didn’t know he was being recorded, not very ethical, and in California, a crime.
Just in case you are interested, which I doubt, the paper you refer to:
Frank DeStefano, MD, MPH*; Tanya Karapurkar Bhasin, MPH‡; William W. Thompson, PhD*;
Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, MD§; and Coleen Boyle, PhD§ (2004 Feb). Age at First Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccination in Children With Autism and School-Matched Control Subjects: A Population-Based Study in Metropolitan Atlanta. Pediatrics; 113(2): 259-266. You can find a pdf at: http://vaccinesafetycouncilminnesota.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PediatricsDeStefanoMMRAtlanta1132259.pdf
Notice that Thompson is third author. Not his paper, co-investigator, principle investigator DeStefano.
In case you missed, Orac has also written detailed discussions on William Thompson. You can check them out yourself:
Orac (2015 Aug 5). “CDC whistleblower” William Thompson appears to have turned antivaccine at: https://www.respectfulinsolence.com/2015/08/05/the-cdc-whistleblower-william-thompson-appears-to-have-gone-full-antivaccine/
Orac (2016 Jan 5). The CDC whistleblower documents: A whole lot of nothing and no conspiracy to hide an MMR-autism link at: https://www.respectfulinsolence.com/2016/01/05/the-cdc-whistleblower-documents-a-whole-lot-of-nothing-and-no-conspiracy-to-hide-an-mmr-autism-link/
Orac (2016 Jan 6). The CDC whistleblower data dump redux: Even William Thompson appears not to believe the antivaccine spin at: https://www.respectfulinsolence.com/2016/01/06/the-cdc-whistleblower-data-dump-redux-even-william-thompson-appears-not-to-believe-the-antivaccine-spin/
And at Science-Based Medicine
René Najera (2015 Aug 24). Vaccine Whistleblower: BS Hooker and William Thompson try to talk about epidemiology at: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/vaccine-whistleblower-bj-hooker-and-william-thompson-try-to-talk-about-epidemiology/
David Gorski (2015 Aug 24). Vaccine Whistleblower: An antivaccine “exposé” full of sound and fury, signifying nothing at: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/vaccine-whistleblower-an-antivaccine-expose-full-of-sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing/
Joel, for all the strawmening defending Thompson’s (or DeStefano’s paper), things boil down to two counts: First, Thompson claimed they did not follow the study’s protocol, and, second, they deliberately neglected reporting significant findings. These two allegations are quite egregious and making the paper retraction worthy. To date, none of the other co-authors or the CDC have provided any satisfactory accounting of those two allegations –the strawmen do not count.
Again Joel, I trust that you are quite aware of what I think of you, and it doesn’t need repeating.
It was earlier this morning, I was on my way out to return an item to a store and do some grocery shopping, so I forgot that I also wrote an article on William Thompson. You can find:
Debunking Antivaccinationist John Stone and the CDC “Whistleblower”: A Review of John Stone’s “DeStefano Rides Again: GSK Rotavirus Vaccine Study Loses 80% Of Cases And 18 Deaths” (2015 Dec 5). Available at:
Ah, Gerg, publishing expert. So why didn’t Thompson himself take his name off the paper?
I explained what a subgroup analysis is, whether part of protocol or not. I also explained that the sample size was too small. In fact, they changed the age range of the study just to get a minimal number of afro-american boys to even do the subgroup analysis.
Yep, I know what you claim you think of me; but given just how stupid you are, just how you continue to ignore what people write, I’d say you are a perfect example of the psychological defense mechanism of projection, i.e., projecting what you hate in yourself onto other people.
By the way, I went to website of our public library and they had Goldacre’s book “Bad Science” at a nearby branch, so I picked it up. The citation you give is to a study by Cochrane group. I found the ABSTRACT online; but not the complete 2005 study which refers to an updated 2012 study, which I have; but Goldacre explains quite well that every single study has “flaws” but each ones flaws are different, so if they all go in same direction, that is science. Even placebo controlled randomized clinical trials has a flaw, namely, that the randomization, regardless of how well done, doesn’t guarantee that uncontrolled variables that could influence the results weren’t unevenly distributed. For you pea brain, an example would be to randomize so equal number of males and females in each group. A single study might end up with more of one gender than another. Of course, gender can be measured; but such things as comorbidities, genetic predisposition, and a host of others can’t. So, even with a well-done clinical trial, science wants more than one study. Each study, done by different researchers, on different populations, different nations, etc. different research designs, e.g., cohort, case-control, etc., different outcome measurements, and voila, a decision is made. The Cochrane review from 2005 says exactly that.
So, as usual, you don’t know what you are talking about, so you attack me rather than admit you are an idiot or maybe not, maybe you have the brain power; but you haven’t used it to learn. I am reasonably intelligent, have a good education; but if someone gave me several plans for building a bridge over a river, I couldn’t judge them as I’ve never studied structural engineering. I could read a couple of articles, perhaps in Scientific American; but still wouldn’t dare decide on something so important. You, on the other hand, continue to display your either lack of learning the basics of vaccinology and/or also your low level of intelligence.
You write: “These two allegations are quite egregious.” Do you understand what an “allegation” is? Certainly not proof. You reject what I wrote and others wrote about the Thompson case, without bothering to read them. I would hate for you to be on a jury, you would make up your mind and either ignore the prosecution or the defense.
Lear, allegations that go uncontested become proof, and especially when they’re expected to be contested. Discarding all the third parties (yours, Orac’s and others) strawmen arguments (and they should be discarded because they’re strawmen arguments and irrelevant!), none of Thompson’s co-authors or the CDC have refuted his charges that the study’s protocol was not followed, and significant findings were deliberately not reported.
Actually, the CDC pretty much confirmed Thompson’s allegation that significant findings went unreported when they conceded the race effect finding. Desperately attempting to account for this, the CDC spun a strawman, suggesting the effect wasn’t real, and was due to black mothers rushing out to get their vaccinated kids diagnosed so they could be eligible for special needs programs; never mind that there was no link found for black girls and the CDC’s argument was entirely speculative with no evidence supporting it. Essentially then, we had the CDC not only spinning a strawman, but a flawed one at that.
Um, no. Not necessarily.
P.S. My comments appear to be showing under my WordPress Account Name. To make clear, I’m Julian Frost.
Still not Thompson’s paper, you ignorant dipshit.
“First, second, and last – Thompson wasn’t the “Lead Researcher.””
That imaginary honorific is almost as ludicrous as antivaxers claiming that Thompson was the “Senior Scientist” at the CDC (with, presumably his own office bathroom and portable throne for attending CDC meetings at which all inconvenient data is shredded).
It is only in delusional Antivax World that the debunked claims about that paper are deemed retraction-worthy. As far as I know, not even William Thompson has called for its retraction.*
*“The fact that we found a strong statistically significant finding among black males does not mean that there was a true association between the MMR vaccine and autism-like features in this subpopulation.” – William Thompson
Thompson again? Good grief. William Thompson got butthurt because he thought he saw some significance in the data after he went and diced and sliced it.
There is an explanation for that. Also known as the Texas sharpshooter fallacy, cherrypicking, or torturing the numbers until they confess.
FFS, I thoroughly flunked high school stats and even I know you don’t do that: you state your hypothesis, you test it, you accept the result. If you wish to perform a further test you run that whole process over again.
What you never do is take a data set that refuted your hypothesis and fiddle with it post-hoc to see you can make it fit another. That’s akin to running a medical trial with no control arm, or an “A vs A+B” study: it will always provide you the answer you seek. It is a very basic form of [self-]deception.
The most Thompson had there was a blip in the data that might’ve been worth exploring further: by designing a fresh hypothesis, gathering the data for that, and testing it. But that’s not what Thompson did—he threw a shit fit instead. Dude had other issues.
In any case, the prior plausibility for Thompon’s claim is rubbish: if there was some genetic element at play you’d expect to see the same blip in black females, so it’s all but certain that it was statistical noise, which is something you do expect to see.
Not that it stops anti-vaxxers riding their dramatized hobby-horse version into the fray: for them, the lies are the point.
Well, that and cozy up with BS Hooker.
Oh, goody. Now DeLong’s little “rebuttal” has been published on the Children’s Health Defense website. https://childrenshealthdefense.org/news/hpv-article-withdrawn-without-detailed-explanation-by-journal-of-toxicology-and-environmental-health/
Wow. Since the retraction a whole 227 people have rushed to read her article!
That must mean it was retracted unfairly.
I noticed Greg mentioned Melanie Phillips.
An odious journalist from this side of the Pond.
If memory serves she’s also a creationist.
@Greg Gayle deLong studied birthrate without taking contraception into account. I am certain that even you can understand how supid this is. I do not think that she is that stupid, either, but that se purposefully omitted contraception. She has, after all, an imaginary axe to grind.
The grindstone is imaginary. Their ax, unfortunately, is all too real. Just look at how much damage it’s done. Lizzie Borden wept.
Why don’t you provide the actual quote, Gerg?
Aarno, in his Bad Science, I remember Ben Goldacre sarcastically scoffing at ‘antivaxxers’ criticism of a particular MMR study, where they complained that the study suffered from seven serious errors. He ranted (and I am paraphrasing) — ‘Is that it?! Only seven serious errors?! That’s the nature of science. Studies have design flaws, but we accept their results and conduct follow-up research to improve and build on them.’
Aarno, now with the Delong study you guys will have us believe that the big. bad ‘retraction police’ will have none of this. He is there to uphold the ‘law’, ensuring that the rules are followed, and he has absolutely NO biases or vendettas that factor into his decisions!
Aarno, I am amused at how you guys keep dropping your drawers and pissing on your ‘science’, and then turning around and decrying that people aren’t respecting it.
Vaccines will continue to harm, and people will continue to believe the parents; no matter what your piss soaked ‘science’ says.
Can’t provide the actual quote, can you Gerg?
Since you didn’t bother to quote page numbers, it’s really hard to know what exactly you’re talking about.
But yes, studies sometimes have design flaws. That’s one reason to do follow up research. Another is to confirm results even in a well designed study. Over time, this builds a body of knowledge that allows scientists to confirm that a particular idea is correct. That’s why we know vaccines are safe and effective.
Delong’s “study” wasn’t well constructed, and her findings can’t be confirmed through other evidence we already have. So it is not good science and can be dismissed because she has done nothing to deal with the errors that were identified, errors so egregious they undermine her conclusions and render them invalid.
She had a choice: come up with a real defense to explain the flaws or redo the work and fix the design flaws. She chose to do neither. Instead, she simply whines.
You’re a crackpot, and everyone knows you’re a crackpot because you continue to prove it with every post you make.
A detailed explanation of the reasons for retracting DeLong’s paper can be found:
Ivan Oransky (2019 Dec 10). Study Claiming Link Between HPV Vaccine, Pregnancy Rates Pulled. Medscape. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/922413
Note. it is free but you have to sign up.
As for Ben Goldacre, don’t remember if I read the specific paper you mentioned; but have read numerous of his papers and he has always been right on. His books are also well-written and well-documented, that is, extensive footnotes/references, e.g. Bad Pharma.
And the antivaxxer belief that antivax articles are targeted for retraction is just plain wrong. Check out retraction watch for the variety of topics where articles were retracted. As for the seven errors claimed by antivaccinationists, please give reference to paper and to antivaxxer comments. There are minor errors and major errors. In addition, just because someone claims errors doesn’t make it so.
John Stone, UK Editor of Age of Autism, keeps claiming there have been no placebo controlled randomized studies of vaccine safety. I have quoted both WHO and FDA and CDC that such trials are required for approval of any vaccine, that is, such trials much record effectiveness as well as adverse events. I also pointed out that a simple search of PubMed using “Vaccine AND Safety” found almost 20,000 articles and even when I added Placebo, several thousand. Also, CDC website lists studies. Stone ignores what I wrote and just keeps making the same claims. I guess you and Stone have the same mentality, that is, live in a fantasy world, ignore what people actually write, and lie.
You write: “Vaccines will continue to harm, and people will continue to believe the parents; no matter what your piss soaked ‘science’ says.”
“People will continue to believe the parents.” Are you aware that there are parents that believe their children’s autism was caused by being possessed and arranged exorcisms? Should we believe these parents?
Desperate parents have resorted to chelation therapy. It does leach mercury from the blood; but also potassium and other necessary metals and kids have died. It doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier. However, parents have noticed immediate changes in their children. Even if it crossed the blood-brain barrier, just removing any mercury, if nerves not completely dead, they wouldn’t start working immediately. But parents think so.
Facillitate communication where a autistic kid who has NEVER communicated with his parents, starts answering their questions typing on a typewriter. First time I saw a demonstration it was obvious what was happening. The so-called therapist was guiding the kids hand. The kids face was bobbing around, not looking at the keyboard, or, for that matter, at the mother. Yet, to read her child saying loved her, well, the mother’s believed. Later research put a screen between the “therapist” and the mother, etc. and no more facilitated communication. In other tests, the kid was asked questions that the therapist/facilitator didn’t know the answer and got it wrong, e.g. mother held up three fingers.
Desperate people want to believe. Add to the mix that antivax messages are ubiquitous and they consciously or subconsciously remember a vaccine preceding their noticing of symptoms. Only problems is, for instance, in home videos taken before the vaccine one could clearly discern autistic behavior.
You reject science because you want to believe that what you believe is objective fact, so do most people; but believing is often wrong for numerous reasons. The fact that many parents believe something is no more valid than beliefs during the Middle Ages that led to killing Jews after outbreaks of the plague, believing Jews had poisoned the wells, despite the fact that they were dying at the same rates as everyone else. Beliefs that racism was objective that darker races were less intelligent, less motivated, etc. wasn’t even close; but entire populations believed it. And on and on it goes.
@Greg So you really think that is good science to study birth rate without taking contraception into account ? Real point is did she do this for purpose.
You can of course comment the reasons of retraction, and tell us what is the problem. That is debate you are asking
Of course prominent antivaxxers never admit a scientific fact. They get good salary for their propaganda
Unrelated to this thread, but I know medical trials and how they are[n’t] conducted is a subject of concern for both our esteemed host and denizens. Here’s the original Bloomberg article, which is a whole fresh discussion of its own:
Also, I got into it with a shiny-eyed technocrat over on a comment thread at the Orange Site:
With regard to the last: how do you deal people like that? I admire the motivation, but the line between Jonas Salk and Josef Mengele is just a matter of means—and it’s the smart motivated messiahs who cannot and will not believe that they could be dangerous to others who really scare my crap.
Unrelated to this this thread, but this news simply cannot be ignored; today AoA is calling Orac out for another debate. Don’t they realize they’re playing with fire, judging from Orac’s breathtaking jabs, kicks, twists, ducks, right-hooks. shadow boxing moves?! Go get’em tiger!
Sure it can.
Whorin’, whorin’, whorin’
Attention-need is soarin’
God your lies are borin’
Sorry, Greg, but you ant-vaxxers will just have to masterdebate yourselves.
I’d say the masterdebating is more occurring at this end, Christopher. It involves you guys constantly jerking yourselves about the going ons at AoA and other ‘antivaxx’ sites. When the antivaxxers invite you guys for some live action though, you immediately go limp.
They’re too craven to even allow comments on their site; this “debate” challenge is just posturing and attention-seeking. My goodness Greg, such little things get you so excited.
Oh, I did try to engage at AoA, way back in the day – tried to be extremely kind and respectful. I believe the first three response comments includes references to me being a “Nazi,” a “baby-killer,” and a “communist, pinko-liberal fascist.”
Yeah, anti-vaxers aren’t interested in a debate.
NASA doesn’t debate Flat-Earthers either.
@Greg Have you noticed that you debate with us ? AoA people do same thing, if they want. Beauty of online debates is facts could be checked, as you may have been noticed.
Greg appears to be suffering from what could most charitably be described as false memory syndrome.
The only Ben Goldacre article I could find that even remotely resembles what he describes is one in which Goldacre responds to a Daily Mail MMR critic who affected outrage over deficiencies in MMR safety research which were noted in a Cochrane review (a 2005 comprehensive literature review which further refuted an MMR-autism link).
Goldacre’s notes that all scientific studies have flaws/limitations to a greater or lesser degree; that’s the nature of science which builds on work of many different researchers to allow us to reach conclusions.
Nothing about minimizing “seven serious errors”.
Dangerous One, I will try to search down that exact Goldacre quote. What you found wasn’t the same passage that I remember reading. Be that as it may, what is the exact process involved in drawing the line with papers that may suffer from serious flaws but don’t need retraction, and those with really egregious flaws that do need retraction? Seems that line was drawn rather liberally with the Thompson paper, but not so with DeLong’s.
Hahahahahahahahahaha……it wasn’t Thompson’s Paper, jackass.
The Dangerous One writes….
Dangerous One, I will try to search down that exact Goldacre quote. What you found wasn’t the same passage that I remember reading.
Indeed I found the exact passage, and it is indeed close to what the Dangerous One referenced
Be that as it may, indeed we have Goldacre agreeing that design problems are not uncommon in research. Panacea is also agreeing…
So, if some studies suffer from design problems, what make them retraction worthy as is the case with DeLong’s study? Panacea actually tells us….
Setting aside DeLong’s own defense of her study, are we to understand that every study that is assessed as suffering from design problems, the researchers will be called upon to ‘explain the flaws or redo their work’? I would conclude of course not, and Panacea is insinuating as much. Renegade papers that do not fall in line with the consensus will face greater scrutiny and are at greater risk of getting retracted.
Perhaps Panacea will dispute this ‘unfairness’, suggesting that is the whole point of calling on the researchers to explain their flaws or redo their work; it’s giving them additional chances. Yet, if papers that fall in line with the consensus are accepted at face value and without much adieu, asking anything extra of renegade paper does indeed make the process unfair. Indeed it’s this confirmation bias that is truly harming research and not renegade papers such as DeLong’s per se. Orac and Panacea not owning up to this just shows how disingenuous they are, and as they prefer to dump all the blame at DeLong’s shore, be it deserved or not. Indeed, confirmation bias is also one of Goldacre’s biggest beef with existing research.
Ouote from Bad Science, pg 236
Wakefield’s study was retracted for the following reasons:
He didn’t list any conflicts of interest, though he had worked for the Dawburn law firm who were suing on behalf of clients claiming their children became autistic due to the MMR vaccine (Wakefield earned ca. $750,000 for this part-time consulting) and he had applied for and received a grant from the British Legal Aid Society for “proving” that MMR vaccine caused autism. No, the grant wasn’t used in the 1998 paper; but the above certainly shows a conflict of interest.
The 1998 paper referred to the kids as normal referrals to the Royal Free Hospital. In fact, all but one of the 12 were either kids from the Dawburn lawsuit or JABS, an antivaccinationist organization supporting the lawsuit. So, when Wakefield asked the parents what they thought caused their children’s autism, he knew their answer in advance. Plus the study claims to have been looking at the relationship between measles vaccine and gastrointestinal disorders. So why was he even asking the parents this.
In the table Wakefield gives one week from MMR to Autism symptoms for most of the kids. Yet, when the actual medical records were obtained, some were more than three months, some were noticed prior to the MMR vaccine, and several of the kids weren’t even diagnosed with ASD. Antivaccinationists focus on Brian Deer obtaining the medical records. Since I don’t know British law, can’t speak on whether it was legal or not, except he wasn’t prosecuted. But whether it was legal or not, the antivaccinationists focus on Deer, not the medical records. And the kids medical records were used by the British Medical Council in their Fitness to Practice case against Wakefield and they certainly had legal authority to access the records. In addition, one of the parents, came forward after reading the article and publicly stated his kid wasn’t diagnosed within one week.
Finally, at the Press conference, Wakefield said, not based on the article but that his name was on two patents for a monovalent measles vaccine, that he would feel safer giving each vaccine separate. While the patents were in the Royal Free Hospital’s name, it is customary to share royalties with the researchers/inventors, so Wakefield, if the patent had been approved, stood to make lots of money
Wakefield arranged a partnership to produce the vaccine if patent approved, which, of course, he would have made money.
So, keep defending Wakefield. It is typical of you.
You write: “Setting aside DeLong’s own defense of her study, are we to understand that every study that is assessed as suffering from design problems, the researchers will be called upon to ‘explain the flaws or redo their work’? I would conclude of course not, and Panacea is insinuating as much. Renegade papers that do not fall in line with the consensus will face greater scrutiny and are at greater risk of getting retracted.”
Nope. Just one example. For decades doctors believed stomach ulcers were caused by stress and diet, then, Dr. Barry Masters from University of Western Australia PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE IN A PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL. It took some time; but now the first course of treatment for an ulcer is antibiotics. I could give more examples, including all the papers published on narcolepsy and the 2009 Pandemic flu vaccine. So, why weren’t they attacked and retracted?
An example of a retracted article was Christopher Exley where he found certain amounts in the brains of autistic children who had died, claiming thus aluminum causative factor in autism. So, why was this paper retracted? Because of two reasons, one: it was a very small sample; but two: more importantly, no comparison group, no normal kids brains. Aluminum is the third most ubiquitous metal on planet Earth. We get it in our water, our food, the air we breath, and from soil though scratches in our skin. Plus, we get it from breast feeding. So, there is a good possibility that he would have found approximately equal amounts of aluminum in the brains of normal children. You probably don’t understand this; but I’m sure everyone else following this discussion will.
I own Goldacre’s book, “Bad Pharma”; but not “Bad Science”, could you scan the page and post it here?
And ORD and I have already been down this road; here are counter examples of scientists being biased to new ideas and resistant to change….
As for DeLong’s paper, indeed Panacea is confirming that one of the reason it faced heightened scrutiny was because it did not fall in line with the ‘consensus’ findings. I’ll have you read her again…
Seriously, why would being able to ‘be confirmed through other evidence we already have’ be considered a quality of ‘good’ science? Using this argument, we could say the Theory of Relativity was ‘bad’ science when Einstein first proposed it.
@Greg As I said before one design flaw was deLong studied birth rate without taking contraception into account. A study like this just cannot give a right answer.
Right now, DeLong is a guest on Null’s noontime woo-fest. It will be on the website ( prn.fm) later in the afternoon ( starting at 44 minutes in- 50 minutes).
She sounds very tentative and worried. Null suggests suing. Second set of reviewers were not kind. She didn’t include birth control because the data base didn’t include it.
Null compares her to AJW and Hooker. Pharma controls what is published. Speak to RFK jr.
” No reason to pull these papers” DeLong. Only anti-vax are retracted.” I double checked” ” criticisms were bogus”
“are not uncommon”
compared to “sometimes occur”
Greg, when you lie and then put the evidence that you’ve lied in the same post, you can’t get all butt-hurt for having your dishonesty pointed out.
I am very disappointed that Retraction Watch’s list of top ten retractions for 2019 does not include DeLong’s paper or any other antivax paper. Maybe such retractions have become too commonplace to be noteworthy.
*an antivax paper that bit the dust in 2018 _did_ make the Top Ten Retractions list for that year – Rimland and McGinniss’ publication that piggybacked off Wakefield’s Lancet paper.
**remember, papers supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccines aren’t retracted because Pharma Conspiracy.
For one thing, it may have already been cited. Simply “disappearing” retracted papers is generally considered poor practice, as Ivan Oransky will be happy to tell you. I don’t know whether it’s explicitly addressed in the full COPE guidelines.
+1 Science journals, like science, should wear their humiliations on their sleeves, as part of the historical record and reminder not to do it again.
Science is a single standard of brutal honesty, applied equally to everyone. Once it starts pulling its punches, you know where that goes.
Greg needs to learn the difference between “imperfect” and “grievously deficient” (not to mention “grossly dishonest and unethical”).*
*the latter refers to Wakefield’s bonfire of crass self-promotion.
Dangerous One and Has, please stop with the crowing about the merits of research science. Seriously — you are cracking my ribs. I could type a few passage from Bad Science of steaming pile of manure that passes as research today, but, in truth, it wouldn’t be just a few pages; he keeps going on and on and I fear I may get sued for copyright infringement.
Maybe you guys are right; maybe indeed DeLong is whining too much that her paper got rejected. She should feel some pride that a system so rotten would spurn her work. The time is seriously approaching when getting retracted can be seen as a credit.
You know who else failed to take contraception into account? Your Mom. What a waste you are.
Here you go Boyz n Goilz. A little vaccine Truth. Take in small doses and call me in the morning. *** https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq6oOuhSx7ESreh6m9LGy6Q
Why should we care what that uneducated buffoon says?
Based on his Facebook page, Milcarek appears to be a 9/11 Truther as well as a devotee of “vaccine Truth”.
That’s funny, Thomas. Bigtree shouting at a pre-recorded video. Even funnier if you think this validates that loon Bigtree.
So, you believe that William Thompson is highly credible. Well, on numerous occasions he has stated that the rest of the paper’s results are totally valid. So, if you believe Thompson, then, I think it was Orac or David Gorski who said this, then you should be overjoyed that the MMR vaccine is NOT associated with autism, except if given to Afro-American boys under three years of age. So, given your belief in Thompson’s credibility why aren’t you and other antivaxxers informing people that the MMR vaccine is safe except for one group and, even for them, it is safe if given after three years of age?
But, as I explained this was a subgroup analysis on a very small group and they even had to change the age range, compared with the rest of the analyses based on the age range in the protocol, such small subgroup analyses are for developing hypotheses for future research, not confirming them in the current research.
But, even if Thompson were correct, which he is NOT, there is NO reason to retract the study as all the other analyses were valid.
As for DeLong’s paper, as pointed out by Aaron Syvänen, she didn’t ask about contraception. If the rate of contraception was higher in the group getting the vaccine, then the lower birthrate would be explained. It may even be possible that the choice to get the vaccine and use contraception were related. Thus, as opposed to Thompson’s study where the main analyses were valid and the sub analyses didn’t follow protocol because to even get a minimal size sample they widened the age range only for the one subgroup analysis, DeLong’s main analysis was flawed.
Dr Harrison, Joel, Lear, I keep telling you what make you guys most pitiful is you’re not just trying to convince us of your lies, but also yourselves. They did not fail to report significant findings out of ‘technical difficulties’, but because they sought to cover-up ‘inconvenient’ findings! That is FRAUD, Joel! It’s a hell of a lot worse than the
‘egregious flaws’ that you’re slapping DeLong’s paper with! Even if DeStefano’s paper were the most pristine outside of the FRAUD that was committed, FRAUD is still FRAUD and simply cannot stand in scientific research.
As to finding no other MMR/autism link for the other subgroups, I remember Del Bigtree in Vaxxed having a different take: He reasoned that study dealt only with timing and where all the subjects got the MMR, and a link was still found. He argued, imagine if the full schedule were studied!
I am a big proponent of the view of too many vaccines breaking the camel’s back, Joel. I consider the reason most parents complain about the MMR is because it often comes last. Perhaps if Hep-B came last that vaccine would take the brunt of the blame.
You just refuse to accept that the subgroup analysis was NOT according to the protocol. They changed the age range for one group. And, it was a subgroup analysis on a still very small group, Subgroup analyses are used to generate hypotheses for future research. And finally, you don’t understand that when one does a lot of analyses, including subgroup analyses, that one has to adjust the significance level because of the random chance of 1 in 20 analyses reaching significance. You just refuse to understand.
As for too many vaccines. Our immune systems are designed to recognize 100 million different invaders to our bodies. Like having 100 million keys that can test locks in two hours or less. In addition, the average child is exposed to up to 3,000 potentially harmful microbes per day, which, in most cases their immune systems deal effectively with. And they are exposed almost all of the vaccine-preventable diseases, e.g., measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, Hemophilus influenza B, rotaviruses, and influenza. Prior to vaccines almost 100% of children got the aforementioned. And the minute traces of such substances as aluminum in vaccines pales next to the exposure through breast feeding, food, water, air, and soil children are exposed to.
As for Del Bigtree, yep, someone who also doesn’t know the basics of the sciences underlying vaccines. I watched his two hour attack on Peter Hotez, then watched the Interview of Hotez he cut and pasted from. I could tear apart everything Bigtree wrote.
And once again, you rely on William Thompson; but don’t answer my question if you see him as trustworthy, then he also has stated that the findings in the reported study were completely valid, so why don’t you accept that NO association was found between MMR and autism, except if Afro-American boys under three received the vaccines. You are incredibly dishonest, keep avoiding my questions, keep referring to people like yourself without any credible basics.
So, I repeat once again, it isn’t fraudulent to leave out a subgroup analysis when one didn’t follow the protocol, when the group was still extremely small, and when, if one adjusted for multiple analyses, it would not have even come close to statistical significance.
Statement from William Thompson….
I am done here, Lear. You will just have to keep on howling to yourself.
As for DeLong’s paper not controlling for contraceptives, all the vaccines/autism studies also use woefully inadequate controls, comparing vaccinated to slightly less vaccinated. Do we hear ‘antivaxxers’ screaming that all those studies should be retracted? No! – they’re calling for more follow-up studies, and with better controls.
If one actually goes back to the first studies on many of the individual vaccines, some actually were compared to groups who had NOT been vaccinated, except for smallpox. And some compared with groups who had had smallpox and polio. And there have been almost a dozen studies around the world where a vaccine has been compared with a non-vaccinated group. Antivax groups, just like you, misinterpret the studies. You are too stupid to realize this.
I have more; but I know you won’t look at them, so why waste my time. However, if you read all of them, you might learn something???
And you ignore the elephant in the room, that is, prior to vaccines the number of kids who suffered, who were hospitalized, who developed life-time disabiilities, and who DIED. As dumb as you are, I wonder how you would react in 1955 to the new polio vaccine if you had actually seen a friend or neighbors child end up in a wheelchair.
You’re doing an awful lot of arm-waving to avoid the question of DeLong’s study. Is leaving out contraception and higher maternal ages (not accounted for) methodologically-sound Greg? Yes or no?
Setting aside DeLong’s defense of these two charges, I would say no Science Mom, it is not methodologically sound. Does that make the paper retraction worthy? I would also say, no. Given the severity of the finding, it would’ve been better to air on the side of safety and conduct follow-up research to either confirm or dispute the finding..
@Greg So you admit that studying birth rate without taking birth control into account is stupid ? Next question : does results of stupid study has any meaning, let alone severe ?
Not controlling for contraception although a serious flaw does not invalidate the findings. And yes, ‘stupid’ studies that buck the ‘consensus’ do offer value. When confirmation bias keeps heaping on the consensus and making it more a mountain of bias rather verified truth, digressing findings may offer a much needed tilt.
The thrust of DeLong’s thesis is that HPV vaccination lowers fertility. Guess what else does that? So you think that by not controlling for the other thing that prevents births it doesn’t invalidate her results? Thanks Greg; your continued Olympic-level mental gymnastics are a sight to behold.
You write: “I could type a few passage from Bad Science of steaming pile of manure that passes as research today, but, in truth, it wouldn’t be just a few pages.”
Yep, Goldacre’s book gives numerous examples of Bad Science; but what you miss is that Goldacre’s solution to Bad Science is Good Science. In addition, though better explicated in his book “Bad Pharma”, Goldacre discusses how the Pharmaceutical Industry doesn’t follow the rules set down by the FDA, that is, to provide the FDA with all analyses and all studies. Goldacre gives examples where a pharmaceutical company does numerous studies or numerous analyses of one study and then ONLY reports those that favor its product. While this is against the law, if the FDA uncovers this, the fines are minimal, though over the past few years the FDA has cracked down on an ever increasing number of pharmaceutical companies.
However, as I’ve written, Goldacre also strongly supports vaccines because the FDA and WHO rules for approval are far more stringent than any other pharmaceutical or even food product, including excellent post-marketing surveillance of adverse reactions. And that the rules are actually enforced, including random visits to production facilities. Science is based first on peer-review or first FDA review; but doesn’t stop there. Science builds on replication of studies. As I’ve explained earlier, there is NO such thing as a perfect study; but, especially with vaccines, researchers around the world have and continue to conduct research. These researchers come from different cultures with different economic systems, different political systems, different educational systems, and different health care systems; yet the overwhelming majority of studies have found that vaccine confer much higher benefits (reducing illness, hospitalizations, disabilities, and death) than the risk for adverse events. And numerous studies have found NO association between vaccines and autism, despite what you and others choose to believe.
And the page 236 in Goldacre’s book that you refer to is one paragraph in Chapter 12 entitled: “The Media’s MMR Hoax, pages 208-252 where he clearly shows that the mass media’s handling of the so-called MMR controversy, at least some journalists, demonstrated their lack of understanding of science and bias. So, without even going to his other book Bad Pharma where he explains why vaccines confer an enormous benefits/cost ratio; the book you talk about basically does the same, in this case, just focusing on the MMR vaccine.
So, yep, there is bad science in the world; but much more good science and the thing with science is that it is self-corrective, that is, once published in some form, others review and attempt replications. Goldacre’s chapter on MMR includes discussion and references to attempted replications of Wakefield’s research and studies with much better science methodology that refutes Wakefield. So, I guess as a supporter of Wakefield you missed this part of his book?
So, as usual you choose one sentence out of context about the MMR research, you ignore the rest of the chapter, and you misunderstand the thrust of the book, that is, to explain what bad science is, not to damn science; but to make sure people understand what good science is. I guess I could point out religious figures who have molested children, ignoring that this is a small minority and laws and enforcement has improved just as every time something conducted using Bad Science leads to more awareness and better science.
So, you got this wrong, you were wrong about the Swedish decision on vaccines, you were wrong about Thompson, and, yet, you continue to think that your insults have an effect. In a way, you remind me of an old James Cagney movies where Cagney is arrested for crimes he committed and says: “You dirty coppers.” Well, in a way, I arrest/demonstrate your inability to understand science, to even enter into a dialogue (ignoring what I and others actually write), so what you think of me is on par with what Cagney thought of the cops. Rather amusing.
The only conclusion I and others can come to is that you either you view things (read papers & comments) filtered by your world of delusions and/or you really are a moron. Can’t be sure if one, the other, or both.
Is that the only reason he supports vaccines?
The thing about Bad Science is you find Goldacre taking down down bad science (research science, homeopathy, cosmetics, etc) with such abandon, using great wit and mockery. When he gets to the section on vaccines, however, you find more timid language. It’s as if some mysterious leash, suddenly and inexplicably finding this ‘badass’..
A recent review of DeLong’s paper list several flaws [Cassella, Carly (2019 Aug 17). Bogus Paper Claims HPV Causes Infertility, Scientists Shred It to Pieces. Available at: https://www.sciencealert.com/bogus-paper-claims-the-hpv-vaccine-causes-fertility-problems
Note that the paper hyperlinks to several other papers.
if the HPV vaccine truly affected fertility, it would take many more years for the national birth rate to slip,
since the vaccine is recommended for preteens.
the low birth rate we see today is more likely to have arisen from greater access to contraception and the shift toward having children later on in life. Yet because DeLong’s research failed to report contraception rates – only birth rates – these factors went completely unnoticed.
The sample size is a good example of these flaws. While DeLong implies that her study analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which represents 8 million women, her actual sample
only included 700 females
What’s more, the two groups being sampled – those who received the HPV vaccine and those who did not – were wildly different in size, with over 400 more females in the group not vaccinated against HPV
The author limited here study on women aged 25-29, which is below the average age that women with a college degree have their first baby
Those women with a college degree were more likely to be in the vaccinated group and
these women also tend to have babies at an older age.
If you limit the study group to women <30 years old, that means that the average women with a college degree did not have their first baby yet. This age group is chosen too narrow to make any correlations with the vaccination status
So, not just birth control pills were left out; but highly uneven groups and a small sample size, and not understanding that a vaccine given mainly to preteens would take years if the vaccine were to affect birthrates.
Let’s see Greg squirm out of this. And he will continue to ignore what I’ve written about subgroup analyses and ignore my question of if he trusts William Thompson, since Thompson stated the analyses in the published paper were valid, finding NO association of MMR Vaccine with Autism, except, if one accepts the subgroup analysis, then why doesn’t Greg admit that the MMR vaccine is safe for everyone, except Afro-American boys under three years of age?
Oh, if you go to the paper, it also mentions that DeLong blamed her breast cancer on having two autistic children? Wow?????
Influenced by German New Medicine?
A comment or two if I may, I am no statistician, but I am a business graduate with enough basic statististical knowledge to know when somebody’s pulling my leg:
1) I can confidently say that a fair chunk of economics “research” consists of “I have a hypothesis, I have data. Let me manipulate the data to fit my hypothesis”. Efficient Market Hypothesis (one of the pillars of modern economic policy) fits that bill exactly by assuming all actors in a market are, at all times, perfectly rational and holding perfect market knowledge. Most major economic research is so bad that the most important econoic papers since Keynes were published by two psychologists.
2) Ms Delong asserts a correlation between dropping fertility rates in Europe and uptske of HPV vaccines. Given that fertility rates in Europe have been dropping since a century or more, and fell below replacement rates long before a HPV vaccine was invented, this correlation is at best an illusion.
I think the card below perfectly suits you.
/Users/joelaharrison/Desktop/You Can Always Serve As A Bad Example.jpeg