Journal apologises to Chinese swimmer for controversial article

August 7th, 2012 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 7 (IANS) A prestigious academic journal has apologised to Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen for carrying a controversial article on its website that “gave the impression that we were supporting accusations (of doping) against her”.

The article titled “Why great Olympic feats raise suspicions” was published on Nature’s website Aug 1, which says that Ye’s gold-winning performance is “anomalous” and implies that her clean drug test during competition can’t rule out the possibility of doping, reports Xinhua.

The 16-year-old Ye broke the world record to win the women’s 400m individual medley gold and followed up with a 200m medley gold in the London Olympics.

Nature’s article has been criticized by many scientists, who are the major readers of the journal.

Lai Jiang, a researcher in Pennsylvanian University, commented on the journal’s website that the article is so scientifically wrong that it “is a textbook example of what we call ‘cherry pick your data’”.

Chinese scientists have signed on an open letter to challenge the Nature article.

Nature apologized in an “Editor’s Note” Monday, saying: “The news story was triggered by a debate that was already active, concerning the scale of Ye Shiwen’s victory. Such debates have arisen over many outstanding feats in the past, by athletes from many countries, and it is wrong to suggest, as many of the critics do, that we singled her out because of her nationality.

“The story’s intention as an explainer was to examine how science can help resolve debates over extraordinary performances, not to examine those performance statistics in detail. Several analyses done by others convinced us that it was fair to characterise Ye’s performance as ‘anomalous’ - in the sense that it was statistically unusual.

“But we acknowledge that the combination of errors discussed above and the absence of a more detailed discussion of the statistics (which with hindsight we regret) gave the impression that we were supporting accusations against her, even though this was emphatically not our intention.

“For that we apologize to our readers and to Ye Shiwen.”

That note was co-authored by Tim Appenzeller, Chief Magazine Editor of Nature, and Philip Campbell, Editor-in-Chief of Nature.

Nature is considered by the scientific community as one of the most prestigious academic journals in the world. Its major editing office is in London.

Appenzeller told Xinhua over phone: “I think it’s pretty much what we want to say.”

He added that the controversial article is an online news story, and it will not be included in the official printed journal of Nature.

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