Dispute over data rights forces retraction of obesity paper …

bmcresnotesA group of researchers in South Africa has lost their 2012 article in BMC Research Notes after one of the author’s institutions evidently pulled rank and sought to claim the data as its own.

The article, “Association of body weight and physical activity with blood pressure in a rural population in the Dikgale village of Limpopo Province in South Africa,” appeared last February. Its first author was Seth Mkhonto, who listed two affiliations, the Human Sciences Research Council, in Pretoria, and the University of the Limpopo.

But the latter institution seems not to have given Mkhonto approval to publish the data — a rather strange state of affairs given the whole “publish or perish” ethos of academia.

According to the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted by the Editor because the authors do not have ownership of the data they report. A formal investigation conducted by the University of Limpopo, South Africa, has concluded that the data reported in this article are the sole property of the University of Limpopo.

The abstract of the paper doesn’t shed any light on why it might have been controversial:

Africa is faced with an increasing burden of hypertension attributed mainly to physical inactivity and obesity. Paucity of population based evidence in the African continent hinders the implementation effective preventive and control strategies. The aim of this study was to determine the association of body weight and physical activity with blood pressure in a rural black population in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.

Methods

A convenient sample of 532 subjects (396 women and 136 men) between the ages 20-95 years participated in the study. Standard anthropometric measurements, blood pressure, and physical activity were recorded by trained field workers.

The paper has been cited once, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.