Economists Petra Persson at Stanford and Maya Rossin-Slater at the University of California, Santa Barbara told us they hadn’t been familiar with the omitted papers at the time they first posted their preprint, but their work remains distinct from these previous studies.Nevertheless, the two quickly updated the preprint of their paper – accepted by the top-tier economics journal – to include additional citations.
Citation omissions in an economics preprint have set off a wave of recrimination and speculation on a widely read economics discussion board.
Commenters accuse the authors of purposely omitting citations that would have undermined the paper’s claims to novelty and contributions to the field, leveling acrimony and personal attacks.
In an updated footnote describing Class et al 2011, Persson and Rossin-Slater write: Related, an epidemiological study by Class et al.
(2011) uses Swedish data, and compares the birth outcomes of children whose mothers experienced a close relative death during different months of pregnancy to those of children whose mothers did not.
The accusations have extended beyond the two authors to encompass journal co-editor Hilary Hoynes, professor of public policy and economics at UC Berkeley, and four anonymous reviewers whom the authors thank in their most recent draft of the paper.
After the authors initially posted their findings online in December 2015, they have updated the draft with additional citations – including two papers singled out by online commenters, a 2011 paper by Quetzal A.Class and colleagues and a 1978 publication by Matti O. In an email, Persson and Rossin-Slater said they became aware of the Class et al paper and others that had studied associations between family rupture and mental health “on or shortly after” May 11, and had uploaded a revised manuscript with additional citations on May 16. used an earlier version of the Swedish database that Persson and Rossin-Slater analyzed, and looked at the influence of prenatal stress on infant size and preterm birth risk.Huttunen and Niskanen, in their retrospective epidemiological study, evaluated the effects on schizophrenia risk of losing a father in utero versus losing a father in the first year of life.An editor at the journal said it’s not unusual for authors to request such changes before publication, and dismissed the accusations made on the discussion board, calling the site “not a legitimate source of information.” The study, “Family Ruptures, Stress, and the Mental Health of the Next Generation,” used data from Swedish national databases to compare mental health outcomes of people born to women who lost a relative while pregnant and women who lost a relative in the first year after giving birth.In their manuscript, Persson and Rossin-Slater write that their study is the “first to document a causal link between fetal stress exposure and mental health later in life.” (The economic implications, they note, are that higher rates of stress among poor people may explain why poverty persists across generations.) The response has been acrimonious, with online commenters accusing the two authors of everything from deliberate omissions to outright plagiarism of study design and datasets.They demonstrate a negative correlation between exposure to death in utero and birth outcomes.