Go ahead, former  member of the Journal of Health Psychology editorial board, make my day

After failing to intimidate the rest of the editorial board, one member resigned from the Journal of Health Psychology.

I am providing a blind review of a paper submitted by her and encourage her to make the paper publicly available in a repository.

I recently joined the editorial board of the Journal of Health Psychology. It is hardly a vanity journal. It is as modest as its editor, David F Marks. But you’d better take both the journal and its editor seriously,

I joined the editorial board to assist its growing commitment to post-publication peer review and economical open access. I’m working with a number of journals in that capacity, like the fledgling Health Psychology Bulletin. I function more in a senior advisory capacity, offering advice, but in neither instance, expecting it will necessarily be heeded

Journal of Health Psychology is new to the controversy over the PACE trial of cognitive behaviour therapy and graded exercise therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome. The journal is been subject to pressure from the PACE investigators and their surrogates. That gang objects strenuously and even aggressively to anyone criticizing what they consider a near-perfect trial, especially from outside the tight group that they consider their peers.

A member of the Journal of Health Psychology became quite unglued, demanding that we stop the “witchhunt.” Her target was a dignified and scholarly series of responses to a commentary:

Geraghty KJ. ‘PACE-Gate’: When clinical trial evidence meets open data access. Journal of Health Psychology

She submitted a commentary of her own. I blind-reviewed it. The manuscript had a feel of quickly being dashed off. I honestly could not determine whether the author was for or against the PACE trial being touted as an exemplary clinical trial. It was just a sloppy, crummy paper.

I apparently concurred in my opinion with another reviewer that the manuscript should not be published. The member of the editorial board threw a tantrum and threatened to smear the journal in social media. She threatened to resign from the board. David Marks offered to have her pick a reviewer to reconsider her manuscript after making any revisions she wished. The member of the editorial board she chose was a close personal friend of Trudie Chalder.

I did not see the review, nor any revision that might have occurred, but the reviewer’s evaluation apparently concurred with mine.

The member of the editorial board made quite a fuss and resigned in indignation. We can leave it at that, except that I am now publishing my review of her manuscript. I now challenge her  to upload the paper to a preprint repository and let the scientific community to see if she was as wrongly treated as she claims.

I also was asked to review a commentary by the PACE investigators themselves. It was a blinded review, but they clearly identified themselves. My review was not signed, but I think it was absolutely unambiguous who I was.

Just because I’ve been subject to verbal abuse by the PACE investigators should not disqualify from being a peer reviewer of their work. But I think it’s fair that any editor that solicits my review take my history with the investigators into account.

The PACE investigators refused to accept my review and threatened to make a formal complaint to the committee on publication ethics (COPE). I say the same thing to them that I am now saying to the former member of the editorial board, “go ahead, make my day, and embarrass yourself.”

The PACE investigators’ paper is now publishing with minimal revisions. In another blog post, I will soon be posting my review and I’ll let the scientific community decide if they should have paid attention to the many problems with their paper I pointed out

When I requested the PACE data that had been promised as a condition of publishing in PLOS One, I was subject to considerable verbal abuse from the PACE investigators. Trudie Chalder even took up some of the scarce time allotted to her testimony before the UK Informational  Tribunal for a humorless personal attack.

I accept that’s what happens when you get into a discussion of the PACE trial. I am complaining, but I’m not claiming victim status. The editor of Journal of Health Psychology is a retired old guy who lives in the south of France. Like me, he can afford not to give  a f*ck. I’m so pleased that he made the journal a forum for extended peer commentary on the  PACE trial.

Stay tuned for our doing the same in a special issue devoted to positive psychology. We will be soliciting lots of commentaries. The main parallel with the PACE trial is that the positive psychology literature has suffered from a lack of independent peer review trial. Reviews of manuscripts are largely limited to true believers and cronies. I personally see my goal as submitting the clams of positive psychology to a fresh, independent peer review.

But for now, I’m offering my review of the former associate editor’s manuscript and encouraging her to make it publicly available.

Go ahead, try to make you look silly, but I think the judgment will be that you are silly.

Comments to the Author

The authors apparently fancy themselves peace brokers, but they get off on the wrong track before the first sentence of the abstract ends. It is no longer a conflict between researchers and patients. Many researchers have offered extensive criticisms of the PACE trial, which are being ignored.

As been demonstrated with numerous conditions, NICE guidelines often are based on political considerations and are discrepant with the results of meta-analyses and other best evidence. Indeed, NICE guidelines often conflict with the guidelines of other countries, which are more demonstrably evidence-based.

The discussion of NNT [Number Needed to Treat] is off-putting to any health service researcher in that it combines curative, palliative, and preventive treatments and fails to take into account cost/benefit analyses.

The authors fall into the trap of labelling the patients’ position as based on their cognitive models. That ignores the congruence of many articulate patients’ views with best evidence, as judged by the international community, not a small research group in the UK and their supporters.

The authors seem oblivious to accumulating evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is quite heterogeneous, and strong evidence for [the role of] biology in an important subgroup.

Gradually, the authors’ own distorted cognitions or belief model emerges in repeatedly implying that the treatments being offered for chronic fatigue syndrome in the PACE trial are even minimally effective.