Lancet error: Millennium Summit made pledges with a 2000 baseline
2 August 2015
Dear Professor Molyneux,
I am aware that what I write here is unusual; it may be hard to believe or shocking.
I am afraid that both other contributors to the Lancet and yourself have made a significant error.
Contrary to a common belief, the Millennium Declaration includes resolutions to reduce child and maternal mortality from "current rates", not 1990.
Leaders only mentioned the generally easier Millennium Development Goal framework in 2005, while reaffirming the Declaration - which they affirmed again in 2013.
It is not clear to me who might be independent enough to decide what The Lancet should do: perhaps you would think it appropriate to suggest an alternate who could act as ombudsman - or inform the publisher.
In my view The Lancet has failed to take reasonable account of representations about both the reasons to publish two letters, and the factual error which caused them to be written.
It seems clear that the editor-in-chief has a conflict of interest. Whether Professor Murray's statements or those of his institution, or of another author, amount to author misconduct is not something I would claim expertise about. But I find it astonishing that he, or Jeffrey Sachs, might not have known what is in the Millennium Declaration.
As I stated in my first letter to The Lancet, Professor Sachs' co-author has since written that the Declaration did not set 1990 baselines. I do not know if it is accepted practice not to correct such errors by writing to the journal which published them.
The evidence is at
Forwarded message ----------
From: Matt Berkley
Date: 30 July 2015 at 21:01
Subject: Re: Your submission to The Lancet
To: The Lancet Peer Review Team <eesTheLancet@lancet.com>
Dear Dr Ceschia,
It is not clear to me that you have understood. For whatever reasons, The Lancet has misled over a period of years.
It is not good for poor people's health to be told the wrong government commitments.
The evidence is at:
The letter you mention refers to errors in two papers, not one. The letter of 12 June refers to others.
Yesterday I found that the Lancet's ombudsman made the same mistake. Today I found Morton [sic - in fact Morten] Jerven did likewise in February 2014. Both mistakes are in the Lancet.
The Lancet published two misleading articles after you stated to me that you had discussed my letter with the editor and that editorial staff had considered it carefully.
On 30 July 2015 at 15:26, The Lancet Peer Review Team <eesTheLancet@lancet.com> wrote:
reference number: THELANCET-D-15-05335
Title: Wrong Millennium pledge
Dear Mr. Berkley,
Thank you for submitting your letter. We have decided not to accept it for publication, but have forwarded it to the authors of the original paper and asked them to respond to you directly.
Dear Dr Horton,
there has been some mistake.
I have informed The Lancet of a significant error in its own editorial coverage as well as in contributions from others.
World leaders at the Millennium Summit did not adopt the generally easier 1990 baseline or "proportions of people in developing regions".
I realise this may be difficult for you.
I think it is clear that authors, readers and those most affected deserve the truth.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The Lancet Peer Review Team <eesTheLancet@lancet.com>
Date: 29 June 2015 at 15:31
Subject: Your correspondence to The Lancet
Manuscript reference number: THELANCET-D-15-04476
Title: Error on commitments in Millennium Declaration
Dear Mr. Berkley,
Thank you for submitting your Letter to The Lancet. Having discussed your Letter with the Editor, and weighing it up against other submissions we have under consideration, I am sorry to say that we are unable to accept it at this time. Please be reassured that your Letter has been carefully read and discussed by the Editors. Thank you for your interest in The Lancet, I hope this decision does not deter you from considering us again in the future.