Further improprieties regarding articles written by scientists with ties to asbestos interests

Fri, Mar 4, 2016


Kathleen Ruff, RightOnCanada.ca

First impropriety:

A group of scientists – Edward Ilgren, Frederick D. Pooley and John Hoskins – were required to publish a Correction in the journal Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Public Health (EBPH) to disclose their financial ties to asbestos interests subsequent to a complaint  of misconduct being made to the journal. An article by Ilgren et al., Critical reappraisal of Balangero chrysotile and mesothelioma risk, denied harm caused by chrysotile asbestos to workers and residents at the Balangero chrysotile asbestos mine in northern Italy.

The arguments put forward in the article were very beneficial to asbestos interests with whom the authors have financial ties.

Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Public Health is the official journal of the Italian Society of Medical Statistics and Clinical Epidemiology (SISMEC).

Second impropriety:

Subsequent to further complaints of impropriety, EBPH published a second Correction  stating that evidence cited by the authors in their article does not, in fact, exist. The authors claimed, falsely, that this evidence showed that amphibole asbestos was transported into the mine in jute sacks and this must have caused the cases of mesothelioma, not chrysotile asbestos at the mine.

The authors, apparently, refuse to admit that they published false information. Consequently, instead of the authors publishing this 2nd Correction in their names, as would be normal for any responsible authors, the two Editors-in-Chief have published the Correction as a statement from the Editors-in-Chief.

Third impropriety:

As well as publishing three articles on asbestos in EBPH, Ilgren and Hoskins, together with the owner and a scientist employed by the R J Lee consulting company, published an article on asbestos in the journal Environment and Pollution. The article claims that Bolivian crocidolite asbestos poses low threat to health.

The publisher of Environment and Pollution is the Canadian Center for Science and Education. Despite its inspiring name, the Canadian Center for Science and Education is, in fact, a for-profit, private, numbered company, owned by one individual, Wenwu Zhao, in Toronto. Zhao has at least four publishing companies (The Canadian Center of Science and Education, the Macrothink Institute, RedFame Publishing and Sciedu Press) that publish dozens of journals and over 20,000 thousand articles over the past few years in a wide array of scholarly disciplines, ranging from biology, environment, computing, social studies, geology, engineering, food research, linguistics, etc.

All these publishing companies are for-profit, private companies owned by Zhao.

They have all been identified as a predatory publishing companies that make money from charging fees for publishing thousands of open-access articles but do not follow proper scientific or ethical standards.

Publisher’s interest is “chating (sic) with beauty”

Zhao has no scholastic credentials and identifies his interests as “Accounting, Art, Biotechnology, Business for Sale, Education, Print Media, Telecommunications, Computer, travelling, and chating (sic) with beauty.”

Journal removed from directory because of “suspected editorial misconduct by publisher”

A complaint was made to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) regarding the fact that the Editor-in-chief of Environment and Pollution who published the article by Ilgren et al. (David Tsetse of the United Nations Children’s Fund in the United States)  stated, when contacted, that he had done no work for the journal. After being contacted, Tsetse asked the journal to remove his name as its Editor-in-Chief.

Another scientist who was identified as the Associate Editor of one of Zhao’s journals, when contacted, said that she did not know that she was the Associate Editor of the journal.

Other examples of improper and deceptive conduct on the part of Zhao’s publishing companies were also submitted to the DOAJ.

The DOAJ has taken action. It has removed Environment and Pollution and other Zhao journals from its list of open access journals, giving as the reason “suspected editorial misconduct by publisher.”

 Environment and Pollution    1927-0909, 1927-0917    11-Sep-2015    Suspected editorial misconduct by publisher

Fourth impropriety:

In their articles in EBPH and Environment and Pollution, Ilgren et al. cited four articles on asbestos they said they had published in the journal Annals of Respiratory Medicine. This open-access journal seems not to exist and seems, if it ever existed, to have been a predatory journal. The link to the journal’s website brought up a message “this website is for sale for US $330!” The publisher of the journal was San Lucas Medical Ltd. The link to the publisher’s website brought up a website in Japan that sells cures for baldness. The link now brings up nothing.

Ilgren and his co-authors cite the articles as having been published in 2012. Two years later, in their 2014 article in Environment and Pollution, however, they cite the articles as being “in press”. R J Lee have put the articles up on their website as being “in press”.

The articles claim that exposure to massive levels s of crocidolite asbestos (500-1000 f/ml) caused no harm to workers in Bolivia.

“These studies in Bolivia provide additional evidence that any exposure to asbestos does not necessarily translate to an adverse epidemiological response,” states RJ Lee consulting company.

Action and lack of action to uphold integrity

The DOAJ is to be commended for having removed the journal that published Ilgren et al.’s article from it directory of open-access journals because of suspected editorial misconduct by the publisher.

It is disappointing that, unlike the DOAJ, to date SISMEC has failed to take action regarding the many improprieties. It has ignored requests that it retract the articles by Ilgren et al. because of serious scientific and ethical improprieties. It has ignored or excused the wrongdoing. It has taken only the most token action.

When a professional society of epidemiologists, such as SISMEC, turns a blind eye to scientific and ethical misconduct, who will defend the integrity of the scientific literature and the protection of public health?


, , , ,

Leave a Reply