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NASA has forced the retraction of an important science paper researching the damage to vision for astronauts on long spaceflights because of a concern the privacy of the astronauts might be violated.
According to the first author, the paper included information that could identify some of the astronauts that took part in the study — namely, their flight information. Although the author said he removed the identifying information after the paper was online, NASA still opted to retract it. But a spokesperson at NASA told us the agency did not supply the language for the retraction notice. The journal editor confirmed the paper was retracted for “research subject confidentiality issues,” but referred a question about who supplied the language of the notice back to NASA.
…According to first author Noam Alperin of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, the paper “Role of Cerebral Spinal Fluid in Space Flight Induced Ocular Changes and Visual Impairment in Astronauts” showed that visual damage caused by long space flights resulted from tiny shifts in the volume of spinal fluid — not vascular changes, as many experts had previously thought.
Protecting the health privacy of the astronauts is something NASA and the doctors that work with them are legally required to do. However, in this case the paper had been scrubbed of this information a long time ago. To force its retraction now when the actual. research was valid and important and the privacy of the astronauts was now protected seems an over reaction to me. Then again, NASA might be under legal pressure from the astronauts themselves, and thus forced to act.