|Dear Margaret; |
I fear we are going round in circles. My basic request is for a reference for a claim you made in a 2005 paper (HIV EIAs have become increasingly more sensitive and specific since HIV testing began in the early 1980s. This has shortened the window period, or the time from exposure to seroconversion, from up to 12 weeks or more in the early days of diagnostic testing to the current window period of less than three weeks in most cases.). I think it is your responsibility to provide at least one citation or, if there is no citation, to publicly withdraw the claim as it is now in the published scientific literature.
In your latest email you tell me that your Our experience at the HIV lab was that the majority ( but not all) seroconversions were detectable within the the first few weeks. This raises the question of how you knew for sure that infection occurred on a certain date. For example, did you have recent negative HIV test results for all these people. And given the existence of a window period, even if you had a non-reactive antibody test a week before the high risk contact that is not proof that the person is HIV-uninfected (according to the theory that HIV antibodies only develop weeks after contact).
Let me illustrate why it is not satisfactory for you to tell me to do me my own research and to stop worrying about the lack of a citation. Lets say I was to find a citation on the HIV window period and it was to contradict your claim about the length of the period. I could then claim that your paper was wrong, but I might not be talking about the same citation as you used, a problem that could only be resolved if I could compare my citation with your currently hidden citation.
There are other fundamental problems too. Lets say that the citation you used was later found to be erroneous or, worse, fraudulent. Since you did not cite this paper there will be no way for the publishers of the withdrawn or modified paper to recognize that your paper also needs to be modified or withdrawn.
Let me quote from a relatively authoritative work in the area of scientific conduct, On being a scientist: Responsible conduct in research published by National Academy Press in 1995: Citations serve many purposes in a scientific paper. They acknowledge the work of other scientists, direct the reader toward additional sources of information, acknowledge conflicts with other results, and provide support for the views expressed in the paper. More broadly, citations place a paper within its scientific context, relating it to the present state of scientific knowledge.
You are also doing a disservice to readers who will hit a blind alley when they read your claim and cannot discover the data that is behind it. This means that they would not only not have the benefit of the research if it is still deemed reliable, but they would not be informed of any questions about the research such as through links to comments on the research listed in PubMed or elsewhere, or other important information on the status of the research.
I now formulate my own hypothesis: You do not actually have a reference to the scientific literature on the window period of HIV tests, and that your claim about the HIV window period in your 2005 paper (Fearon M. The laboratory diagnosis of HIV infections. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2005 Jan; 16(1): 2630.) is therefore not based on published scientific research.
It will be very easy for you to disprove my hypothesis, simply just produce the citation for your claim that HIV EIAs have become increasingly more sensitive and specific since HIV testing began in the early 1980s. This has shortened the window period, or the time from exposure to seroconversion, from up to 12 weeks or more in the early days of diagnostic testing to the current window period of less than three weeks in most cases.
Alternatively, you can admit that my hypothesis is true and write to the journal indicating that this part of your publication is not supported by scientific evidence.