Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Conflict Over War Deaths: Researchers attack British Medical Journal review process

Date:
December 21, 2009
Source:
Simon Fraser University
Summary:
Researchers from Canada, the UK and Sweden have slammed the influential British Medical Journal for publishing an error-filled study on global war deaths, refusing an equivalent rebuttal article and having a flawed peer-review process.

Researchers from Canada, the UK and Sweden have slammed the influential British Medical Journal (BMJ) for publishing an error-filled study on global war deaths, refusing an equivalent rebuttal article and having a flawed peer-review process.

Related Articles


"This is not some trivial academic disagreement," says Andrew Mack, director of the Simon Fraser University-based Human Security Report Project (HSRP), which published a detailed critique of the BMJ's claims in the December issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution (JCR).

"Accurate statistics on the health impacts of war are critically important not just for researchers but also for humanitarian organizations whose assistance programs save millions of lives around the world."

The HSRP article, "Estimating War Deaths: An Arena of Contestation," takes issue with a 2008 BMJ piece by Harvard researcher Ziad Obermeyer and colleagues, which rejected widely accepted battle-death statistics compiled by the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO).

The PRIO data reveal that global war deaths declined by more than 90 per cent between 1946 and 2002.

But the BMJ claimed in a release publicizing the Obermeyer article that "war has killed three times more people than previously estimated and there is no evidence to support claims of a recent decline in war deaths."

Mack and HSRP study co-author Michael Spagat at the University of London, both leading experts on the subject, determined that the BMJ article failed to substantiate either assertion, was marred by serious mistakes and showed little understanding of the research it critiqued.

So Mack, the former strategic planning director to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, emailed the BMJ identifying six major methodological and factual errors in the Obermeyer article "Fifty Years of Violent War Deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia."

"The problems we point out would have been obvious to any of the many conflict researchers familiar with the research being criticized," says Spagat.

The U.K. journal acknowledged none of the errors, he says, and it ruled out publishing a detailed rebuttal, claiming the Obermeyer study was very thoroughly reviewed by appropriate experts.

"But the BMJ is well aware that its peer review process is flawed," says Spagat. "A recent study, whose authors include the journal's current editor, revealed that, on average, only a third of the 'major errors' deliberately inserted in a BMJ article were picked up by reviewers."

Adds Mack: "There appears to be no way of effectively rebutting BMJ articles that contain unwarranted -- and damaging -- critiques of the work of other scholars.

"This makes the journal effectively unaccountable by shielding it from serious criticism."

Note: The JCR paper and technical appendix, PRIO battle deaths data, the BMJ paper and technical appendix, and a paper on the BMJ peer review are all available at http://www.hsrgroup.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=469.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Simon Fraser University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Michael Spagat, Andrew Mack, Tara Cooper, Joakim Kreutz. Estimating War Deaths: An Arena of Contestation. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2009; 53 (6): 934 DOI: 10.1177/0022002709346253
  2. Ziad Obermeyer, Christopher J L Murray, Emmanuela Gakidou. Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia: analysis of data from the world health survey programme. British Medical Journal, 2008; 336: 1482-1486 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.a137

Cite This Page:

Simon Fraser University. "Conflict Over War Deaths: Researchers attack British Medical Journal review process." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091220162115.htm>.
Simon Fraser University. (2009, December 21). Conflict Over War Deaths: Researchers attack British Medical Journal review process. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091220162115.htm
Simon Fraser University. "Conflict Over War Deaths: Researchers attack British Medical Journal review process." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091220162115.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

U.S. Ebola Response Measures Demonstrated

U.S. Ebola Response Measures Demonstrated

AP (Oct. 31, 2014) Officials in the Washington area showed off Ebola response measures being taken at Dulles International Airport and the National Institutes of Health. (Oct. 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the risk of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the U.S. is essentially zero Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum. He also said an Ebola vaccine will be tested in West Africa in the next few months. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer History on Display at Museum of Death

Killer History on Display at Museum of Death

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) Visitors take a trip down murderer memory lane at the Museum of Death located in the heart of Hollywood. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A nurse who vowed to defy Maine's voluntary quarantine for health care workers who treated Ebola patients followed through on her promise Thursday, leaving her home for an hour-long bike ride. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins