Stellenbosch University File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Serious flaws were among the reasons the publishers of an international scientific journal retracted from their platform the Stellenbosch University study denounced as racist. 

They said there was clear evidence that the findings in the controversial study were unreliable 

This comes after an outcry caused by the article “Age- and education-related effects on cognitive functioning in coloured South African women,” by the university’s Health Sciences Faculty researchers. 

Academics and organisations called for the study to be removed from the UK-based academic journal publishing site, while the Psychological Society of South Africa’s division for research and methodology said the methodology used in the research was flawed. In a statement, the publishers said they retracted the paper in line with their Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines on retractions, because there was clear evidence that the findings were unreliable. 

“As outlined in the retraction notice   there are serious flaws in the paper’s methodology and in how the original study was reported, including making assertions that are not supported by the data provided. 

“In line with publishing ethics best practice, the academic and publisher editorial teams began an investigation as soon as they were alerted to concerns with the paper. The journal editors have consulted the authors and this retraction has been agreed by ourselves, the journal editors and the authors.

 “In summary, the article contains a number of assertions about ‘coloured’ South African women based on the data presented that cannot be supported by the study or the subsequent interpretation of its outcome. Specific data that would be relevant to these assertions was not collected. In addition, the references provided are not supportive of the claims that are made about the participants in the study or about South African women more generally.” 

The study, conducted by Sharné Nieuwoudt, Kasha Elizabeth Dickie, Carla Coetsee, Louise Engelbrecht and Elmarie Terblanche, found that coloured women had an increased risk of low-cognitive functioning as they presented low education levels and unhealthy lifestyle behaviours. Following the retraction of the article, Stellenbosch University deputy vice-chancellor for research Professor Eugene Cloete said: 

“Based on our own initial evidence, the university strongly supports the retraction.” Meanwhile the group of academics and researchers who campaigned for the removal of the article, denouncing it as racist, have hailed the decision. 

“The editors have corrected a wrong that should not have happened in the first place. What we take from this is that when we stand together and rally support and arguments against obvious injustice we can make a difference. 

However, the retraction of this colonial, apartheid oppressive research can be regarded as a gateway to the muchneeded nationwide discussions in order to eradicate the denialism of the prevailing struggles of identity politics,” they said. 

CAPE TIMES