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Fukushima Fallout and Infant Deaths: International Journal of Health Services' Vicente Navarro Responds

Fukushima Fallout and Infant Deaths: International Journal of Health Services' Vicente Navarro Responds

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

nuclear radiation, reporting on health, fukushima, vicente navarro, michael moyer

Yesterday, I wrote about controversial research linking fallout from Japan's earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant to infant deaths in the United States.

The research, which was harshly criticized by Scientific American's Michael Moyer and others, was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of International Health Services, and I had asked the journal's editor-in-chief Vicente Navarro for his response to the criticisms.  

Navarro, professor of health policy at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, emailed me this comment today:

Thank you for making me aware of the critical response that Mr. Moyer has published in the blog of The Scientific American to the article we published in the last issue of the International Journal of Health Services by Joseph J. Mangano and Janette D.Sherman entitled "An Unexpected Mortality Increase in the United States Follows Arrival of the Radioactive Plume from Fukushima: Is There a Correlation?"

In reply to your questions, this quarterly is a peer-reviewed journal and the paper was reviewed by 2 outstanding scholars in the subject being discussed. We trust our referees' judgment. We do not publish letters to the editors, but when we receive criticisms we believe merit attention, we publish them asking the authors of the original article to reply if they so wish, publishing the exchange in the same issue and let the readers judge. This is how academic debates should be handled. 

We have invited Mr. Moyer to submit his criticisms published in the Scientific American blog to the IJHS in its entirety as a reprint or in a modified form and we very much hope he will agree. If he does, the IJHS will publish it in one of the next issues with a reply from the authors if they so wish, which I suspect they will. 

Moyer said in an email that he had declined Navarro's invitation. Here's why:

In short: I'm a journalist, not a scientist. My post is the property of Scientific American, so there's rights issues. My post also argued against both the paper and the claims made by the authors in their press release. And since the authors' strategy seems to be to gain legitimacy for their public claims by the simple fact of appearing in a peer reviewed journal, I didn't want to give them another opportunity to trumpet their success.

Well said. It will be interesting to see if others submit criticisms to the International Journal of Health Services and how the authors respond. Still, anyone Googling the study or the authors' names will see that the "academic debate" Navarro refers to has spread well beyond the confines of one journal.

Related Posts:

Fukushima: Alarmist Claim? Obscure Medical Journal? Proceed With Caution

Photo credit: Thierry Ehrmann via Flickr


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Dear Dr Vincente Navarro,

Will you please send me the names of the outstanding scholars who were referees to the recent article by Mangano and Sherman?

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Dear Barbara Feder Ostrov:

Due to vacation schedules, I have not had the chance to read your note of December 21 regarding the International Journal of Health Services (IJHS) until now. As you might suspect, I did not quite like how you slighted our journal, referring to it as an "obscure medical journal" which you have repeated on your two notes, and which we found offensive, besides being unfair.

But we are aware that in the journalistic style, some expressions are used that would be avoided in academic settings. Since you are, however, part of a university institution and your public seems to include future journalists, let me make some expansions to the note that Ivan Oransky makes regarding evaluation of a journal’s impact factor.

In comparing journals one has to compare apples with apples, not apples with oranges. This means the journals have to be standardized by frequency, content and other dimensions that might affect its Impact Factor. For example, a journal like the IJHS, which is published only four times per year, is bound to have less citations than a journal that appears each month or every two months, which is what happens in the majority of journals that Oransky compares us with. Even in spite of this handicap, the IJHS is 48 out of a total of 72 in the category of "Health Services" where the journal citation reports chose to include it.

Regarding the content, journals that by their nature are multi-disciplinary, again, like the IJHS, are often cited less frequently because of the broad nature of the journal. This happens frequently with policy-oriented journals. And another dimension is the topic since, for the most part, there are many journals that touch on similar topics and, therefore, are well-known within multi-disciplinary clusters. Our partners, therefore, are journals such as the Journal of Health Policy, Politics and Law, Health Policy and others. When you do that, it comes up that the IJHS has a similar five year impact factor.

The IJHS is indeed one of the journals better known in the US and abroad on health policy areas. It was been cited frequently as one of the best journals on health policy by the International Association of Health Policy. It has existed for 42 years and keeps going strong.

As to the article that seems to have motivated your concern, I mentioned to you in a previous note that we do not publish letters to the editor, but when we receive critical communications that we feel are representative of certain positions that merit attention, then we publish them asking the authors of the articles that are criticized to respond in case they so wish, publishing everything in the same issue. This is our understanding of academic debate and we like to keep it that way. We regret that Mr. Moyer graciously declined our invitation to publish his remarks in the Scientific American blog or an extended or modified version of them. We would have liked to have his criticism and the reply from the Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman and let the readers judge. We are sorry we will not be able to do so.

I hope you will publish this reply on your blog. And I also hope that in your future references, when we publish articles you might disagree with, that you do not use the style and tone you used in your recent blog postings when you referred to our quarterly. There are certain norms that should be respected in academic circles. I hope you agree.


Vincent Navarro, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Health Policy
Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University


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Dear Dr Navarro,
since you didn't answer my letter to the editor from 1st of January I use this blog to express my concerns about the study by Mangano and Sherman.

The study is flawed.
The data before and after Fukushima differ: After Fukushima, the authors included 119 cities in their evaluation, before Fukushima only 104 cities. The excess infant deaths come from the 15 additional cities.
A trend analysis of weekly infant deaths with the official CDC data from week 50, 2009, to week 25, 2011, yields no upward shift, but a 1.3% decrease of infant deaths after Fukushima.

Regards, Alfred Koerblein

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Oh, Boo-Hoo! Navarro, you come across like you've been treated unfairly. The fact that the "study" (and I use the term only in the loosest possible sense) was coming from Mangano should have raised red flags at the outset. The guy's a charlatan whose "studies" have been repeatedly and soundly debunked in the past. I don't know who the supposed "outstanding scholars" were who let this absurd thing into your journal but they should be ousted. A child could have seen the vacuousness of that nonsense (sorry, no offense to children meant). All your bluster about impact factors and your whining about the tone of the criticism is ludicrous. By publishing that nonsense you've done a great disservice to the public at large, for it will be (and is being) trumpeted far and wide by anti-nuclear nutcases and the general public will once again be confused. This should be seen as a huge black eye to your journal, and if this sort of thing is commonplace therein you may not be "an obscure medical journal" but you would certainly deserve to be. I suggest an apology for publishing it, a scathing rebuke to the authors, and a serious talking-to with those who vetted it for you. You have no excuse!

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Sir, Madam,

It is difficult for the general public to make sense of the controversy. There could be antinuclear as well as pronuclear bias in many posts. Can someone adress the precise criticism read here above by Alfred Koerblein on Tue, 2012-01-10 ? Valid criticism ? Easily dismissable criticism ? Thank you.


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