Sunday, May 9, 2010

Time Out--online free journals

I will continue the tale of the company, Ventria Bioscience tomorrow or the next day. Within days of writing about Ventria Bioscience in my blog, Ventria withdrew their FDA GRAS notice for lactoferrin and lysozyme. Should we presume that this is the end of it? Will the company go on to other endeavors? Or are they just changing strategy? I read that a company does not necessarily need GRAS to market a product. So who knows what this company will do in this game-playing world. There has been a huge investment. But I leave that tale for next time.
Instead I want to introduce a new concept in the world of free online publication of medical research. It's called change the text, change a table after publication. "Now ya see it, now ya don't."
In March of this year, I read an article online called, "Does opening a milk bank in a neonatal unit change infant feeding practices? A before and after study" in the International Breastfeeding Journal. I read alot of their articles because its free (can't afford medical journal subscription prices). And I comment on some of the articles. I wanted to read this article because this was the second article on milk banking in a professional journal in a month. The other article was authored by people involved in the HMBANA milk bank in San Jose. This article was authored by researchers in Spain--Torres et al. I read the article and thought it was poorly done. They defined exclusive breastfeeding as equivalent to exclusive breastmilk feeding. Then concluded, "We demonstrate how milk banks do not cause reduction in the rates of breastfeeding or in promoting its protection and support." Study never showed that milk banks did not cause a reduction of breastfeeding (the act of suckling an infant). Their research seemed to show that infant formula usage was decreased by the use of donor milk. Breastfeeding and breastmilk feeding are not equivalent. We may "feel" the need to support mothers who pump their milk and never get the baby to the breast. But scientifically, breastfeeding and breastmilk feeding are two very different modes of feeding an infant. In fact the use of technology to collect breastmilk creates change in the product (fat content). It is similiar to the difference between kneading bread made from whole ingredients and using a bread machine using the same ingredients. There is a taste difference, even a texture difference. Machinery saves time, but it creates it own problems.
So I wrote a comment regarding this study and it was published. Some weeks later I went back to reread the article because I was going to write about it in this blog. And I became thoroughly confused. The text had changed making my comment appear totally bizarre. In fact the whole article seemed different. If I hadn't quoted from the text of the article in my comment, I would have thought I lost my mind. Yeah, I know alot of people think I have lost my marbles. I realized at the very least the sentence had changed since I had made my comment. So I wrote the editor about the changes made to the conclusion of this study. I was concerned that changes were made without readers knowing that changes were made. The editor wrote me back and stated that changes had been made by the authors to correct a Table error and while they were making those changes they changed the sentence. The editor stated that a comment would be made to reflect that changes had been made. I wrote back to the editor asking which Table was changed. The response was that the change was a number change not related to the feeding data. But I was not told which Table was changed. There were other issues. The significance of this, seems huge to me. How easily our technology can be used to change perceptions. If I hadn't quoted from the text, I would have thought I had lost my mind. If I had let it pass and not written the editor, readers would have presumed that Valerie W. McClain was a nitwit. Of course, now I look at online professional journals in a different light. What might be changed? Is it the same text as yesterday, will it be the same tomorrow? Trust in print....god save of us.

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