18th December

Marine Institute stands over quality and accuracy of its research

Statement by Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO, Marine Institute:

I welcome the acknowledgement by the 'Journal of Fish Diseases' for their error in publishing as a ‘Short Communication’ the piece by Krkosek et al. claiming ‘fundamental errors’ in Marine Institute science.  

I further welcome the apology by the Journal for the inadequate editorial procedures followed and the unfairness with which they treated the Marine Institute by not affording us right of reply prior to the publication of Krkosek’s accusation.

In the Journal on the 14 August 2013, Krkosek et al.’s work was presented as having been peer reviewed. It was subsequently the basis of much media comment criticising Marine Institute science.

Scientific peer review is all important to the quality, accuracy and integrity of research. However, what people must be made aware of now is that Krkosek et al’s has now been reclassified by the Journal as a ‘Comment’, which is akin to an opinion piece. 

The Journal has also updated its author guidelines to clearly state the level of peer review for the different types of articles. While original manuscripts are subject to full peer scientific review prior to publication, the Journal’s guidelines clearly state that ‘Comments will be editorially reviewed... in order to facilitate rapid publication’.

Furthermore, I welcome the fact that the Journal has now published the Marine Institute’s rebuttal to Krkosek et al.’s unfounded criticism of the paper by Jackson et al., entitled Impact of Lepeophtheirus salmonis infestations on migrating Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., smolts at eight locations in Ireland with an analysis of lice-induced marine mortality’.  

“In our rebuttal, we strongly reject Krkosek et al.’s claim that there were statistical errors in the original Marine Institute paper. The Marine Institute’s original paper published in the 'Journal of Fish Diseases' was subject to full scientific peer review.

“I must remind people that the methodology and statistical analyses used in the original Marine Institute paper is the accepted scientific approach, allowing for robust findings. This has been confirmed through the scientific peer review process. 

The Comment by Krkosek et al was a re-analysis of the data from the Marine Institute paper. However it was based on an analysis of just 56 summary data points as opposed to over 352,000 individual data points used in the Marine Institute analysis.

It is also worth noting that the original paper was published in the same issue as a similar study carried out in Norway by Skilbrei et al.  (2013) which used the same methodology, was also peer reviewed, and reported similar findings to those of the Marine Institute.

As the national agency responsible for marine research, we stand firmly over our science and, in the interest of accuracy and fairness, we urge you to share the full facts with your readers/listeners as soon as possible.

We have a very strong track record of providing high quality scientific advice and we firmly stand over all peer reviewed science published by our staff.

The Marine Institute paper presents an analysis of a long-term dataset from eight locations along Ireland’s west and south coast to determine the impact of sea lice on migrating salmon.

It concludes that while sea lice-induced mortality on outwardly migrating salmon smolts can be significant, it is a minor and irregular component of marine mortality in the stocks studied and is unlikely to be a significant factor influencing conservation status of salmon stocks. 

Access to quality research is vital both to the Marine Institute, as an independent scientific agency, and to the wider scientific community. We emphasise the importance of solid statistical analysis in delivering solid evidence-based research.  Thank you.

The response is published in the Journal of Fish Diseases as open access.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jfd.12239/full

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