ABC News covers Brian Hooker’s study: Hooker “manipulated the data and manipulated the media in a very savvy and sophisticated way.”

10 Oct

A recent ABC story (How a Now-Retracted Autism Study Went Viral — Again) discussed Brian Hooker’s flawed and retracted study.  Here are the first few paragraphs:

An autism study that was slammed by experts and retracted this week by its publisher is still alive and well on the Internet, thanks to what critics are calling a perfect storm of lax publishing standards.

Experts say the lone study author played fast and loose with statistics to show a link between autism and the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, some experts going as far as saying that the author deliberately did this, but the dubious results took off online anyway, quickly going viral.

“There are always going to be those people at the edges of science who want to shout because they don’t want to believe what the data are showing,” said Dr. Margaret Moon, a pediatrician and bioethicist at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. She said she thought the study author “manipulated the data and manipulated the media in a very savvy and sophisticated way.”

“It’s not good. It’s not fair. It’s not honest. But it’s savvy,” Moon said.

Good to see this coming from outside the blogOsphere. Let’s pull one sentence out for emphasis, shall we?

She said she thought the study author “manipulated the data and manipulated the media in a very savvy and sophisticated way.”

When people ask about data manipulation and the MMR/Autism story, there it is.

The story continues at ABC: How a Now-Retracted Autism Study Went Viral — Again. Included in the story is a CDC statement that I’ve seen before but warrants quoting here.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statement regarding Brian Hooker’s reanalysis of its 2004 study Aug. 27, 2014

There was no cover up. The study did not find any statistically significant associations between age at MMR vaccination and autism. In the CDC paper, similar proportions of case (children with autism) and control children (no autism) had been vaccinated before 18 months or before 24 months. While slightly more children with autism (93.4%) than children without autism (90.6%) were vaccinated between 24 and 36 months, this was most likely a result of immunization requirements for preschool special education program attendance in children with autism.

As this topic was so sensitive and complex, the CDC study published in Pediatrics in February 2004 underwent clearance at CDC, the usual process of internal review for scientific accuracy that all CDC papers undergo. In addition, before submission to the journal, the manuscript was reviewed by five experts outside of CDC and an independent CDC statistician (see acknowledgements section of the paper for specific names). Finally, all reputable journals undergo peer-review of all submitted papers before final publication.

The 2004 CDC study was designed as a case-control study. This means, children with autism (cases) were specifically identified, and children without autism (controls) were identified to be similar to the children with autism in other respects. When data are collected in a specific way for a specific type of statistical analysis (a case-control study in this instance), using those data in a different type of analysis can produce confusing results. Because the methods in Dr. Hooker’s reanalysis were not described in detail, it is hard to speculate why his results differed from CDC’s.

Since the 2004 Pediatrics paper, CDC has conducted additional studies of vaccines and autism. In 2004 the Institute of Medicine reviewed published and unpublished findings from the US and other countries and concluded that there was no association between MMR vaccination and autism. In 2011, another IOM committee reviewed additional research, and once again found that evidence favored rejection of this association.


By Matt Carey

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18 Responses to “ABC News covers Brian Hooker’s study: Hooker “manipulated the data and manipulated the media in a very savvy and sophisticated way.””

  1. David Foster October 10, 2014 at 01:10 #

    Interesting how you cover criticisms of Hooker’s study, and quote the entire CDC response, but do not cover any of Dr. Thompson’s statements, or anything relevant to what he was actually blowing the whistle on.

    • Sullivanthepoop October 10, 2014 at 01:17 #

      What is there to cover really? He hasn’t said much. He has not even admitted to saying anything other than that he thought that information should have been included and that vaccines save many lives and no one should skip vaccination.

      • David Foster October 11, 2014 at 06:22 #

        “He hasn’t said much”? Once again you lie Mr Poop.

        http://vimeo.com/user5503203/review/108522744/186711a23b

      • Lawrence October 15, 2014 at 10:36 #

        Well, given that AoA hasn’t even addressed the actual retraction (nor has Hooker made any formal statement), the criteria must have been particularly damning….but leave it up to the anti-vax folks to keep harping on the study, even after it has been shown to be a pile of stinking crap.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 15, 2014 at 22:05 #

        Yep. And I’m not done showing how bad this is.

    • johnrharstine October 10, 2014 at 02:02 #

      Besides, all that has been hashed over repeatedly in the last few weeks since the study was released, the videos posted, and Thompson’s statement was released by his lawyers.
      He doesn’t call the study a “fraud”, he still supports vaccination, and he hasn’t asked for his name to be removed from the original paper, which most of Wakefield’s co-authors did.
      Primarily, as best I can interpret the information available, Thompson is mainly concerned that the one data point which Hooker homed in on wasn’t emphasized or pointed out in the original report.
      But, as this column and ABC’s report points out, when properly analyzed in a manner consistent with the methods of the study, it wasn’t significant enough to show a real problem. And that has been born out by other studies since.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 10, 2014 at 04:48 #

      There’s a search box at the top of the page. One can find not only Thompson’s full statement, without any comment, but much other discussion on this site.

      What whistle? Seriously. Take the spin off this and what whistle was blown?

      • David Foster October 11, 2014 at 01:13 #

        Funny you should ask, here is the latest video:

        http://vimeo.com/user5503203/review/108522744/186711a23b

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 11, 2014 at 03:33 #

        Saw that before I wrote my reply, but thanks.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 12, 2014 at 02:12 #

        Interesting, I ask ‘take the spin off’ and you give me spin.

        What issues do you see with that video? Any inconsistencies with previous information from Team Wakefield? Any red flags? As an objective and inquisitive person, I suspect you saw more than I did. After all, I’m just a pro-vaccine zealot. I must have just dismissed it without checking any facts.

        I await education.

      • David Foster October 11, 2014 at 06:08 #

        Response to your reply below…so you saw the newest video and you still claim there is no whistle? You pro-vaccine zealots have had your 15 minutes with all of the “it’s only black children” and “it was an honest disagreement about the data”, but your time is just about over. I’m not sure how you “spin” the complete coverup of very important data. Think about it, this study was supposed to tell us whether MMR vaccine increased the risk of autism, and this is exactly what the study found…and then they completely withheld this from the public.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 12, 2014 at 02:21 #

        “You pro-vaccine zealots have had your 15 minutes with all of the “it’s only black children” ”

        Really? When have I ever made a statement like that?

        You came here with your passive-aggressive attack (suggesting that I only discuss one side). You then made the extremely predictable move to being outright aggressive. Shall I paint your next steps? Write what I expect to be your responses? I’ve seen “you” many times in the past.

        Here’s a question for you: what did you make of the ugly race-baiting video Mr. Wakefield started out with? Yes, that’s leading. I assume that you are OK with it until I hear otherwise.

        What’s your take on the fact that almost all of these “advocates” are calling for hearings rather than actual action? Seriously, what has a hearing ever done for us in the autism community. Which begs the question–are you are part of the autism communities or just another person using my communities as a hammer to attack vaccines?

      • Science Mom October 11, 2014 at 18:46 #

        Response to your reply below…so you saw the newest video and you still claim there is no whistle?

        Nope, still no whistle. Please tell us what the startling revelation is?

        You pro-vaccine zealots have had your 15 minutes with all of the “it’s only black children” and “it was an honest disagreement about the data”, but your time is just about over.

        No, only Hooker found an association and with crap statistics; that’s what was being pointed out. But the anti-vaxxers crowed about a single finding in the older age group no less and applied it to all children. Ridiculous.

        I’m not sure how you “spin” the complete coverup of very important data. Think about it, this study was supposed to tell us whether MMR vaccine increased the risk of autism, and this is exactly what the study found…and then they completely withheld this from the public.

        No spin needed; you don’t know squat about epidemiological study design nor statistical analysis, neither does Hooker, nor Wakefield and Thompson isn’t an epidemiologist. Go ahead and shut us up by explaining what exactly was covered up.

    • brian October 10, 2014 at 05:26 #

      Perhaps Thompson was disgruntled that his suggestion that ASD was more common among the dozen or so African-American boys in the database was seen to make as little biological sense as his results that suggest that thimerosal seems to protect against many adverse neurological outcomes [Pediatrics. 2010 Oct;126(4):656-64; N Engl J Med. 2007 Sep 27;357(13):1281-92.]

  2. Science Mom October 10, 2014 at 13:11 #

    Jake Crosby thinks he has the smoking gun (yet again) regarding Hooker’s re-analysis. I don’t know what Jake is going to school for but it isn’t epidemiology.

    • lilady October 16, 2014 at 05:57 #

      Please do not disparage Jake Crosby and his efforts to explain BS Hooker’s study. It’s the best show in town. 🙂

      • cannabisforautism October 16, 2014 at 16:24 #

        Can’t you somehow trick Jake and Jacob into fighting each other? Solved.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) October 17, 2014 at 00:55 #

        I don’t read his blog, but I decided to see what you are talking about. Looks like Mister Crosby is being schooled in epidemiology and statistics. I like the part where he’s informed that comparing a relative risk to an odds ratio isn’t valid, so he’s basically left with saying 1.3=2.3.

        And it looks like Mr. Hooker’s analysis is absolute junk.

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