Student mags and altered press releases

10 May

Lisa Jo Rudy at autism.about.com received, as did a lot of us, a press release that stated:

Investigators from Pace Law School in New York will be joined by parents and children with autism to announce a groundbreaking study that strongly suggests a link between vaccines and autism on Tuesday, May 10 at 12:00 pm in front of the US Court of Claims (717 Madison Place in Washington DC).

Lisa Jo looked a little deeper and asked this ‘major law school’ for their statement on the matter, she discovered:

According to the Pace Law School, no one from the school was involved with the investigation, nor did anyone from the law school take part in the presentation. In addition, it is important to note, the Pace Environmental Law Review is a student run publication. What’s more, all of the investigators involved with this publication and presentation represent clients who have claims on behalf of family members in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

At that point Lisa Jo tactfully refrains from wondering why and how this situation could’ve arisen. Visit her blog for more information at the link above.

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5 Responses to “Student mags and altered press releases”

  1. KWombles May 10, 2011 at 23:36 #

    Dig a little deeper and you see that their high rate of autism isn’t. 39 confirmed beyond parental report cases of autism out of 2,500 paid compensation cases is 1 percent.

  2. livsparents May 11, 2011 at 02:03 #

    I wonder how Mary Holland’s sales of her book, Vaccine Epidemic, are doing since she released this article?

  3. Anne May 11, 2011 at 03:29 #

    That’s the first time I’ve seen authors of a law review article administer a psychiatric questionnaire to parties in cases they’re writing about. That has to be a first.

    I’m going to assume that the press release reference to “investigators from Pace Law School” was based on the statement in the article that Pace Law School students assisted with the research. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. There usually aren’t any “investigators” involved in writing law review articles.

    Oddly, in the legal world of the US, the major law journals are student-run. They’re not really student mags, they’re academic publications of the law school. Pace Environmental Law Review is not a high-impact journal, however; its IF pales in comparison to the journals published by Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, NYU and so forth. (Google “law journals impact factor” if you want.)

    Typically, students edit the journal. Articles are written by legal academics and practitioners and submitted to the journals for publication. Students contribute their own writing to the journals in the form of shorter “Comments” or “Notes.” It’s an academic honor to work on your school’s law journal.

    Anyway, this has got to be the strangest law review article I have ever seen.

  4. Lisa May 11, 2011 at 15:08 #

    Just to clarify: I didn’t go to Pace; they saw the reprint of the press release on my site and were concerned because it was misleading. I then went back and realized I’d received two separate press releases with rather different presentations of the relationship between Pace and the researchers.

    I should also note that the research group did not, themselves, administer the questionnaires to the parents; apparently they worked with folks who were trained to do so. Again, I don’t know the details.

    It is curious, though: if they found about 21 people with autism out of the 2500 who received awards, you would think that would be just about right based on the 1:110 (or lower) ratio for the general population. But they’re saying that the ratio is actually 21:83 or so (may have my precise numbers wrong) because the 21 should be viewed NOT in the context of ALL awards but only in the context of awards that could potentially be autism-related.

    If I were a statistician I could comment on this way of viewing the evidence, but I’m not.

    Would this be like saying “I want to know how many kids in the school are bullies. Out of 1,000 kids, 60 have been to the principal’s office more than five times, and out of that group 10 are identified by several sources as bullies. Thus 10:60 kids in the school are bullies”?

    Or am I completely misunderstanding the process of managing the numbers?

    Lisa

  5. Stuart Duncan May 11, 2011 at 16:58 #

    From this article: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/742471

    “In 21 of these 83 cases, the federal claims court stated the petitioners had autism or described the condition unambiguously, according to the study. In the remaining 62 cases, the authors determined through structured interviews with parents that the children had autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). All in all, there was confirmation of autism or an ASD beyond parental report in almost half of the 83 cases, according to the study.”

    Funny enough, in some articles (http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20110510/pl_usnw/DC99265_1) I’ve seen the initial number at 1300. Makes percentage points look higher if the initial number is cut in half.

    What gets me is the last sentence though… almost half (39 to be exact, as reported in other articles) of the 83 cases were confirmed “beyond parental report”.

    To me, that means a diagnosis. Not that the investigators can’t make a diagnosis but whether they can or can’t… there is no official diagnosis done via interview with the parents.

    So there’s no way to determine how many of them actually have autism or something else resembling autism. Same goes for the initial 21 cases… they “had autism or described the condition”. Well, which is it? There’s a difference.

    The actual numbers of confirmed diagnosed cases of autism could be much lower than what we’re seeing in all these reports. From all I could narrow it down, I can only be reasonably certain of 39 cases, those that were confirmed “beyond parental report.”

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