This week we were all set to report on an interesting but possibly biased study that pointed to some incredible health benefits through transcendental meditation. Funded by the Maharishi University of Management, the paper claimed an almost 50% drop in heart problems (including those leading to heart attacks and strokes) for people who practiced transcendental meditation. We were skeptical to say the least, but it was being published in the eminently respectable Archives of Internal Medicine, so we thought it worth covering.
However, just minutes before the embargo was set to lift, the Archives recalled the paper, asking people not to report on it. What the what? Apparently less than 24 hours before publishing, the authors contacted the journal and handed over some data that had been requested, prompting Archives to hold the paper until they could analyze the new information. And they sent out the email just 13 minutes before press time.
This raises nothing but more questions. How did a paper get so far through peer reviewing and publishing without what was evidently crucial data? Does this throw substantial doubts on their results? Even more bizarre, the researchers claimed in a press release sent out this week to be partly funded by the NIH's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, who have now declared that they haven't funded the Maharishi Institute since 2004.
To call this 11th hour recall unprecedented is to put it lightly. There's been some interesting coverage on Forbes and Embargo Watch, which are worth a read for a more in-depth look. The Archives have an excellent reputation, so it'll be interesting to see what was the root of this issue.