David Tuller and I have written a response to an alarming research paper that appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. We have posted a preprint with the Open Science Foundation, and David has also posted the text in full over on Virology Blog.
Here is our abstract:
In this review, we consider the paper by Adamson et al., published in the October 2020 issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
The authors interpret their data as revealing significant improvements following cognitive behavioural therapy in a large sample of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic fatigue.
Overall, the research is hampered by several fundamental methodological limitations that are not acknowledged sufficiently, or at all, by the authors. These include: (a) sampling ambiguity; (b) weak measurement; (c) survivor bias; (d) missing data; and (e) lack of a control group.
In particular, the study is critically hampered by sample attrition, rendering the presentation of statements in the Abstract misleading with regard to points of fact, and, in our view, urgently requiring a formal published correction.
In light of the fact that the paper was approved by multiple peer-reviewers and editors, we reflect on what its publication can teach us about the nature of contemporary scientific publication practices.
As it turns out, on the same day we posted the manuscript as a preprint, we received a notification from the JRSM that the editor had, in fact, rejected our submission.
We suspect that other venues might be interested.
Brian Hughes is an academic psychologist and university professor in Galway, Ireland, specialising in stress, health, and the application of psychology to social issues. He writes widely on the psychology of empiricism and of empirically disputable claims, especially as they pertain to science, health, medicine, and politics.