PLOS One today published a statement that its staff were evaluating Professor James Coyne’s request for data from a PACE trial paper published in the journal in 2012. Professor Coyne said on social media that the move “represents progress”.
King’s College London had denied Professor Coyne’s request on behalf of the study authors and had treated it as a Freedom of Information Act request, even though Coyne had explicitly made it with reference to PLOS One’s data-sharing policy.
PLOS One’s statement appears online in the comments section of the paper and notes that the version of their policy that applied when the article was published requires authors “to make freely available any materials and information described in their publication that may be reasonably requested by others for the purpose of academic, non-commercial research” and “also notes that access to the data should not compromise confidentiality in the context of human-subject research.”
They further stated that “PLOS staff are following up on the different concerns raised about this article as per our internal processes. As part of our follow up we are seeking further expert advice on the analyses reported in the article, and we will evaluate how the request for the data from this study relates to the policy that applies to the publication. These evaluations will inform our next steps as we look to address the concerns that have been noted.”
Professor Coyne, in a brief blog post, said “I do think there will be some resolution, but it will take until after the holidays.”
King’s College’s letter of refusal to Professor Coyne described his data request as “vexatious”, and as having “improper motive” and a “polemical” purpose. The refusal was met with swift condemnation from leading figures in science, including Professor Chris Chambers of Cardiff University, who said, “If @KingsCollegeLon is seeking to do itself ‘reputational damage’, hiding trial data shd do the job.”
Dr Richard Smith, the former editor of the BMJ, said on Twitter: “King’s College is surely making a mistake in holding back data from a controversial trial” and today published a lengthy BMJ blog post titled, “QMUL and King’s college should release data from the PACE trial”.
Influential blog Retraction Watch reported on PLOS One’s notification notice and quoted lead PACE author Professor Peter White as saying, “We understand PLOS One are following up concerns expressed about the article, according to their internal processes. We will be happy to work with them to address any queries they might have regarding the research.”
The PACE trial was a controversial £5 million randomized trial whose authors claim it showed that cognitive behavioral therapy and graded exercise therapy were effective treatments for some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
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