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UK reviewer calls herbal medicine study for infertility ‘not science’
  • By Kwak Sung-sun
  • Published 2019.12.10 15:47
  • Updated 2019.12.10 15:47
  • comments 0

Kim Dong-il, director of Dongguk University Ilsan Oriental Hospital, recently requested Medicine, a review journal, to publish his paper on using herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat infertility. However, a U.K. researcher refused to peer review Kim’s paper, calling it “ludicrous” on his social networking site. He said, “This is not science. This is not clinical research.”

Jack Wilkinson, a researcher at the Center for Biostatistics of the University of Manchester, uploaded two screenshots on his Twitter last Wednesday, showing a part of Kim’s abstract and his comments on why he refused to review it.

Kim Dong-il, director of Dongguk University Ilsan Oriental Hospital

As more than 100 Twitter users shared Wilkinson’s tweet, Kim and the Ministry of Health and Welfare criticized the U.K. expert and called his action “a violation of peer review ethics.”

“Before I started the study, I wrote to Medicine explaining how I would do my research, and they released my writing. I submitted my research results this time, but I don’t understand why they refused to publish it, saying the study method was wrong,” Kim told Korea Biomedical Review on Tuesday.

Kim said he heard that Wilkinson was negative about alternative and complementary medicine. It was absurd that the reviewer who refused to peer review a research paper uploaded such issue on his social networking site, Kim went on to say. “I don’t think he even read my entire paper. A paper can be passed or rejected, but revealing it to the open public is a violation of review ethics,” Kim emphasized.

A medical journal’s rejection of a paper does not always mean the research is poor, Kim said.

“This study was an observation of the results of herbal medicine for infertility treatment. It did not have an obligation to use a control group,” he added. Not using a control group does not mean the paper is unscientific, Kim argued. “I suspect that he might have shared his opinion with local people who are against Oriental medicine,” he said.

After failing to publish his paper on Medicine, Kim submitted his paper to another medical journal. If he fails there, he will try another, Kim said.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare, which commissioned Kim’s research, also said Wilkinson breached review ethics and said it would see whether other journals would publish the study.

Medicine’s dismissal of Kim’s paper will not affect the government's support of the research, and the ministry will not request a return of research funds, the ministry said.

An official at the ministry’s Oriental Medicine Industry said, “I saw a local news report which implied that Wilkinson exchanged opinions with local experts. This is not the right thing to do, I think. If this is true, this is a serious violation of review ethics.” If the U.K. researcher had said that the research was at an infant level and that the government should not use it as a basis for a policy, I could understand him, he added.

“Kim was doing step-one study, but Wilkinson says it was bad because the paper didn’t do step five,” the official said.

After Wilkinson’s tweet spread, local experts have raised suspicion about whether Kim’s study could prove the effectiveness of herbal medicine treatment for infertility.


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