PLOS ONE, the journal that published Lisa Littman’s paper on what she called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria has issued a formal apology for publishing the paper. It has also issued a correction notice and a formal comment which are amended to the paper which has been revised.
The correction notice reads, in part:
After publication of this article , questions were raised that prompted the journal to conduct a post-publication reassessment of the article, involving senior members of the journal’s editorial team, two Academic Editors, a statistics reviewer, and an external expert reviewer. The post-publication review identified issues that needed to be addressed to ensure the article meets PLOS ONE’s publication criteria. Given the nature of the issues in this case, the PLOS ONE Editors decided to republish the article, replacing the original version of record with a revised version in which the author has updated the Title, Abstract, Introduction, Discussion, and Conclusion sections, to address the concerns raised in the editorial reassessment. The Materials and methods section was updated to include new information and more detailed descriptions about recruitment sites and to remove two figures due to copyright restrictions. Other than the addition of a few missing values in Table 13, the Results section is unchanged in the updated version of the article. The Competing Interests statement and the Data Availability statement have also been updated in the revised version
On PLOS ONE’s blog there is the apology:
An apology to the trans and gender variant community
This case has also demonstrated the scrutiny scientific research can attract beyond the immediate academic community. As an Open Access journal, the research that we publish is accessible to everyone, and so far the study has been accessed by more than 140,000 readers. However, with such openness also comes the responsibility to ensure a rigorous reporting of research, presented with the necessary context. In this case, as a journal we have failed in this responsibility when reviewing and publishing the original article.
As Editor-in-Chief of PLOS ONE, I fully and sincerely apologize to the trans and gender variant community and others affected by those shortcomings. We should have handled this better. PLOS is an inclusive, open and non-discriminatory publisher that deeply cares for the concerns of this community. We should have taken the interests and the often difficult situation of adolescents experiencing gender incongruence into account when handling this manuscript for publication. We should have provided a better context of this research, its framing, and its limitations related to the study design. With the article’s republication, we address this by providing additional viewpoints and context via Dr Costa’s Formal Comment and Dr Littman’s Correction notice.
Between the blog post, the correction notice and the formal comment there is a great deal to take in. I might try to bullet-point this matter in coming days. The important thing is that they have recognized the mistakes that were made and taking steps to correct them.
Were this paper submitted today it would never pass through peer review. The decision to correct the paper rather than withdraw it is sound because there is a thorough discussion of the shortcomings. Evaporating the submission would lead to numerous conspiracy theories.
Overall, the point is that this research has very limited application.