John Livingston

An Apology Is Due

Long before Covid, before The Affordable Care Act (ACA)—Obama Care, long before Al Gore and Global Warming, there has been a flight from integrity in the scientific publishing community. It started back in the mid-seventies in academic medicine when “the way to promotion and pay” shifted from fee for service and taking care of sick patients to an easier way to make a dollar. The pathologic servo loops of doom involve publishing a “scientific” study supporting a scientific claim by a bureaucrat like Dr. Fauci, or the claim of a drug company. The investigator will then have access to future grants and subsidies and a “cash flow servo loop”, hopefully in perpetuity. Before long you don’t even have to take care of sick patients. It is not just medicine, but in the hard sciences that we have seen intellectual integrity in publishing being criticized. Articles in prestigious “peered reviewed” journals like Scientific American, The Lancet and The Journal of The American Medical Association have been retracted and issues have again been raised about “scientific integrity” —is that really any different than individual integrity, and the supervision of the investigative process by the senior authors on the article. I predict there will be no call for accountability in the scientific and medical communities when the investigative dust settles.

During the Covid political pandemic simultaneous articles in The American Journal of Medicine and The Lancet had to be retracted when it was disclosed that a single vendor was used to coalesce and retrieve data from medical charts provided by Federal data banks using Medicare and Medicaid information. The same vendor and data were used in both articles. The analysis was coalesced, was haphazard, it was all completed by less than ten people and millions of charts were involved in the “meta” analysis. No peer reviews. No “adult supervision and most of all no “scholarship”.

Today it was announced by London based Hindawi, one of the world’s largest open-accessed journal publishers, that it is retracting more than 500 journal articles based on the discovery of “unethical irregularities” in the peer review process. As a result, these discoveries 511 papers will be retracted in articles published since August of 2020. The articles appeared in sixteen journals. In the words of a Hindawi: ” Irregularities in the peer review process in some journals that involved coordinated peer review rings and the infrastructure that supports scholarly research” were identified during the editing process! Are peered review rings the same thing as self-serving “servo loops of doom”?

This is the tip of the iceberg. It is a prospective “Mia culpa”. The scientific community has long recognized the sloppiness of its own process. It has been “the experts” that have allowed themselves to be driven by a political narrative that puts money in their pockets and puts actual scientific progress that is always slow to begin with, many steps further behind. The lack of outrage is disappointing. Everyday citizens conduct their everyday lives with far more virtue than “expert scientists”.

One would expect from a curious and inquisitive press, that before repeating many of these stories, they would at least ask the most basic of all questions—”Really”. Do we all just accept everything that is written as being fact? If the press is lazy and not curious, should we not be on guard ourselves to ask the same question “Really”. And how about the next question—”prove it”. If the “expert scientists” aren’t inquisitive, if the peer review organizations aren’t inquisitive, if the press isn’t curious, We the People should remain skeptical at least and we should always ask for more information before coming to conclusions about “settled science”.

When false information is repeated by well-intentioned people who should know better, good people can be hurt. Many of the scientifically proven “settled science” narratives that came from the “experts” during the political Covid, were repeated by people who weren’t “experts” but should have known better. A former Idaho Supreme Court Justice embarrassed himself by asking that a physician with incredible academic credentials have his medical license revoked because he expressed a scientific opinion about Covid mitigation and treatment strategies that was contrary to the political narrative that was currently in vogue, and much of which has proven to be false. Kind of like Pope Urban putting Galileo under house arrest. Copernicus and Galileo were correct. We live in a heliocentric solar system. The Inquisition Board couldn’t have been more wrong. The non-scientist “experts” calling for the medical license of a physician, a husband and a father providing for his family, who bravely expressed his opinion based on his informed understanding of the science, is an act of hubris and arrogance. I am not an attorney, but I guess if a “rules’ of evidence standard” were applied to both sides of many scientific disagreements both sides of the argument would be credible—maybe even worthy of further investigation. It happens in courts every day when experts under oath disagree. Of all people a former judge should have understood that.

Considering the disclosure of the “tainted evidence” that may or may not have resulted in Covid mitigation strategies, maybe some apologies will be forthcoming. Such an apology would certainly be something we have seen little of during the angry political debate over the past few years. It would be a virtuous magnanimous act. Just like Galileo, good people have been hurt by calumnious claims of “settled science”.

And most importantly I believe our Legislature should design a law that protects individual physicians from having their licenses put in jeopardy because they publicly express opinions that are different from what the experts believe. The California legislature is making the opposite kind of law. Specifically, it should be noted that “standard of care” and standard of medical Practice” are already in our state law. To codify a “settled science” standard would mean that the actual practice of medicine, what doctors do in real life, not be the standard, but what lawyers and legislators IMAGINE a standard to be. An imagined standard would replace a real life standard.

Maybe a former Supreme Court Judge or two could help write such a piece of legislation to clarify the situation and further protect patients from “settled science”. Or maybe—and I am not a lawyer or a judge, the First Amendment (freedom of speech) already applies. That question will take a true expert judge-lawyer to answer. There might even be some differences of opinion about it.

2 replies on “An Apology Is Due”

Dr. Livingston your article is spot-on !!
Those of us who are today experiencing additional health care issues in our senior years are seeing why excellent physician’s like yourself are leaving healthcare because of widespread Corporate backed political corruption.
Numerous assaults that have launched against America’s sovereignty & Citizen’s individual rights over the past two decades are led by the Corporate Cartel of lobbyists aka ‘The Cabal’ a term this forum uses. Evidence of overthrow assaults by our rogue conflict of interest politicians in both parties has made it clear that we have long been engaged in a Civil War to complete America’s conversion / annexation into a third world dictatorship.
Minus bombs, American’s are experiencing the same type of overthrow as the Ukrainians.
Question is,,, if the midterms elections are also rigged will we just continue being molested by corrupt public servants who we know have routinely violated their oath of office contracts ?

The process of scientific publishing is not sloppy. I’m speaking from my experience in the 1980’s with editing a materials science magazine then called Metallurgical Transactions. I was one or their Key Readers. Do you have any experience with editing a medical journal?

You talk about articles in prestigious ‘peered reviewed’ journals like Scientific American, The Lancet and The Journal of The American Medical Association. But ‘peered reviewed’ is uncommonly silly terminology, and Scientific American isn’t peer reviewed like The Lancet or JAMA.

Regarding Hindawi, 511 recalled articles sounds like a lot – until you get inquisitive. Then you will find out that Hindawi publishes over 220 journals. That’s a very large iceberg, so it only amounts to 2.3 articles per journal. Also, since the retracted articles were found in just 16 journals, that’s less than 7.3 percent of them.

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