Author Archives: awbrown

Recent letter to the editor is perfect anecdote for our new PNAS paper on errors



Issues with data and analyses: Errors, underlying themes, and potential solutions

Andrew W. BrownKathryn A. Kaiser and David B. Allison

There is a sense of irony that our paper about issues with data and how to prevent and correct errors came out just after our letter to the editor attempting to correct a misanalyzed cluster randomized trial was dismissed by the authors. Perhaps had we been able to share our article describing these errors and a variety of ways to prevent and correct them, the response would have been different.

Given our experiences with other attempts to correct the literature, though, that is doubtful.

In our letter, we lay out that the authors prespecified the appropriate analysis, ignored the correct analysis for certain comparisons in their paper, and then used the misanalyzed results as the focus for their press-releases. Although we offered to work with the authors in private because we believe collaboration can be more constructive than letters back and forth, the authors turned us down. In turn, their reply to our letter did not acknowledge their error. In fact, they doubled down by claiming that because others made the mistake in the past it was okay. Ted Kyle with ConscienHealth describes it more.

Our PNAS article describes challenges such as these and others we faced when trying to identify and correct the literature.
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The Next Phase: Indiana University Bloomington

As of October 1, 2017, I am now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health-Bloomington at Indiana University.

My six plus year journey at the University of Alabama at Birmingham provided me with many excellent experiences, and I am both excited to move on to the next part of my career, and saddened to leave many friends and colleagues behind.

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Sackler Colloquium on “Reproducibility of Research: Issues and Proposed Remedies”

I had the pleasure to attend and contribute to a Sackler Colloquium on “Reproducibility of Research: Issues and Proposed Remedies” organized by David B. Allison, Richard Shiffrin and Victoria Stodden. While I could spend time here summarizing it, others have done so already:

If you have the time, I encourage you to watch the videos themselves. We have been adding a few of them to the Obesity and Energetics Offerings each week so those interested can drink slowly from the aquifer of information provided at the colloquium.

New Chapter: “Critical Evaluation of Nutrition Research”

The importance of nutrition in medicine is increasingly being discussed. In response, a new book was compiled entitled Nutrition in Lifestyle Medicine edited by Dr. James Rippe. In it, my wife and colleague Dr. Michelle Bohan Brown and I wrote a chapter about “Critical Evaluation of Nutrition Research.”

The chapter walks through a number of challenges in evaluating and communicating research in general and nutrition in particular. We try to keep the topic lighthearted, with the hope that encouraging critical evaluation will not induce unabashed cynicism.

After presenting a talk for the ConAgra Food Science Institute Nutri-bites Webinars organized by Dr. Rippe entitled, “In the Eye of the Beholder: Critical Evaluation of Nutrition Research,” I was honored to be invited to contribute a chapter on a similar topic. This topic is one that Michelle and I have conducted research on, such as our paper about the reporting of the relationships between skipping breakfast and obesity. I was delighted we were able to work together again on this chapter.

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Letter writing campaign pays off, for us and science

Reflecting on our experiences writing letters to editors and authors to try to improve the literature through post-publication peer review, we were invited to write a comment in Nature, which we titled “Reproducibility: A tragedy of errors”.

Over the course of at least 18 months, we wrote numerous letters to editors and authors, including direct contacts, contacts through submission systems, and PubMed Commons. The effort took much time and was often frustratingly slow, including sometimes ending without a resolution. Continue reading

Several new letters trying to correct the literature

Over the last some-odd months we have published letters and online comments to try to clarify and correct the literature where we saw plagiarism, potentially invalidating analyses, and overstatements of results. See some below:

Errors in statistical analysis and questionable randomization lead to unreliable conclusions.

Comment on “Intervention effects of a school-based health promotion programme on obesity related behavioural outcomes.”

Comment on “School-Based Obesity Prevention Intervention in Chilean Children: Effective in Controlling, but not Reducing Obesity.”

Concerning Sichieri R, Cunha DB: Obes Facts 2014;7:221-232. The Assertion that Controlling for Baseline (Pre-Randomization) Covariates in Randomized Controlled Trials Leads to Bias Is False.

Letter to the Editor: Exceptional Data in Paper on “The effect of meridian massage on BM, BMI, WC and HC in simple obesity patients: a randomized controlled trial.”

Awarded the Science Unbound Foundation Best Paper Award

Our paper, “Belief beyond the evidence: using the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity to show 2 practices that distort scientific evidence,” received the 2014 Best Paper Award from the Science Unbound Foundation for a paper by a University of Alabama at Birmingham investigator in the area of nutrition and obesity. The Science Unbound Foundation has as its mission:

“Furthering scientific knowledge in the service of health, happiness, and quality of life of humankind through scientific research and education.”

Thank you to the foundation for recognizing our work.

Promoted to Scientist

On June 1st of 2014 I was promoted from Postdoctoral Trainee to Scientist within the Office of Energetics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am excited to continue developing my research program with my colleagues at UAB and appreciate the flexibility I am being afforded by the Office of Energetics as my wife, who is an Assistant Professor at Clemson, and I continue to figure out the two body problem (or, as Dr. David Allison once put it, the two body advantage!).

First place: Postdoc Research Day Oral Competition

The Postdotoral Association and the Office of Postdoctoral Education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham held PostDoc Research Day 2014 with oral presentation competitions. I was awarded first place for my presentation entitled, “Using crowdsourcing to evaluate published scientific literature: Methods and example.” Every presentation in the session was well delivered and quite interesting, which made being selected first place truly an honor next to the other fantastic presentations.