We’ve learned a lot about retractions in 2012, from the fact that most retractions are due to misconduct to the effects they can have on funding. We’ve seen eyebrow-raising reasons for retractions, from a hack of Elsevier’s peer review system to a researcher peer reviewing his own papers, to massive fraud in psychology to a math paper retracted because some of made “no sense mathematically.”
So as the year winds to a close, we wanted to take a look at retractions by the numbers.
1. How many retractions in 2012? Counting retractions for the year is a bit tricky, and not just because the year isn’t quite over yet. Some journals don’t show up in databases for months, meaning 2012 retractions will appear in 2013. We asked our friends at Thomson Scientific for their numbers, and they found 322 retractions so far, out of about 1.6 million items indexed. But they point out that 2011 saw about 2 million indexed items — with 391 retractions, probably not a complete count — which suggests there’s a lot left for 2012.
So what does that all mean? We’ve said that 2011 was a record year, with about 400, and it looks as though 2012 will have about the same number.
2. The unofficial retraction record holder. This one we can report with a bit more certainty. Yoshitaka Fujii, an anesthesiologist formerly of Toho University in Japan, fabricated results in at least 172 studies, according to investigations. Those retractions haven’t all made their way into the scientific record, but presuming even most of them do, he’ll take the record from Joachim Boldt. Boldt, Retraction Watch readers may recall, is also an anesthesiologist, and has some 88 retractions to his, um, credit. Adam discussed whether anesthesiology might have a problem in this post.
3. Longest time from publication to retraction. The record, set just this month, is 27 years, for a mundane reason:
misunderstanding of the respective publishing and copyright policies of the journals and the implications of publishing in a conference proceedings.
That was in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for a December 1985 paper, “Increasing the response rate to cytotoxic chemotherapy by endocrine means,” beating out 25 years for a 1980 paper in the Biochemical Journal.
We’ve broken a few records of our own, including having our first 300,000-pageview month in July (and a few since then). Our most-viewed post this year — although not of all time — was about Dipak Das, the resveratrol researcher who has now retracted 19 papers.
As always, however, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Thanks to some high-profile cases, scientific misconduct — and how to prevent it — has been an international topic of conversation. There have been stories in Le Monde, the New York Times, the Seoul Daily, and many others. Just this morning, there was a New Yorker blog post on the subject.
None of this would have been possible without the support, tips, constructive criticism, and encouragement of our tens of thousands of monthly readers. So: Thank you, and all best for the holidays and in 2013.