“A friendly word of caution to the research community—with the rise of biobanks/large datasets in the 21st century, researchers should pay particular attention to data rights restrictions and carefully vet the use of any data source before using it for scientific purposes.” Those words of advice came from a research team at the University of West Virginia to Retraction Watch after they were forced to request that a journal remove a paper they published just three months ago about alopecia. According to comments first author Ahmed Yousaf made to Retraction Watch, the research team requested, and thought they had obtained, permission to use the data from UK Biobank that was the basis for the paper that appeared in JAMA Dermatology.
The biobank outpatient dataset was restricted to studies involving COVID-19 research, and the group published one such paper. The team had “requested the primary care data without COVID restrictions,” he said, and was “shocked” by the biobank’s notification that use for the alopecia study had not been granted. Yousaf told Retraction Watch he wasn’t sure if the team would submit a new request for permission following the retraction. “It was unfortunate to pull an otherwise ethically sound paper with a strong premise, we agree with the UK Biobank that appropriate data use and participant protection trumps the value of any publication,” Yousaf said.