After more than four years, 2,000 posts, and incredible responses from the scientific community, we are thrilled to announce that The Center For Scientific Integrity, a not-for-profit corporation we’ve established, has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to expand the work of Retraction Watch.
The goal of the grant — $200,000 per year for two years — is to create a comprehensive and freely available database of retractions, something that doesn’t now exist, as we and others have noted. That, we wrote in our proposal, is
a gap that deprives scholarly publishing of a critical mechanism for self-correction.
While we’re able to cover somewhere around two-thirds of new retractions as they appear, we’ll need more resources to be comprehensive. Here’s more from our proposal:
The main benefit would be that scientists could use it when planning experiments and preparing manuscripts to make sure studies they would like to cite have not been the subject of a retraction, correction, expression of concern or similar action. Retracted studies are often cited as if they were still valid – for data, see https://surgery.med.uky.edu/sites/default/files/retracted_publicatio.pdf – because publishers are not very efficient at notifying readers of retractions. And even when retractions are easy to find, the notices that accompany them are often opaque or misleading.
This resource would be vital for the academic community and is one about which we frequently are asked. The biotech and pharmaceutical industries also have a financial incentive to use this database. For example, two analyses – one by Bayer, another by Amgen – found that most compounds the companies licensed did not perform in the lab as described in the literature.
Investigators studying research integrity could use Retraction Watch data to explore questions related to the nature of retractions, as Fang, Casadevall and Steen did in 2012, for example – http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/09/27/1212247109 – and journalists could use it to add important detail and context to their articles. Institutions could use it in their inquiries about staff; government agencies could use it in their own investigations.
The funding will allow us to hire a reporter, an editor, and a database developer. (Retraction Watch remains a volunteer activity for Adam and Ivan, with any honoraria and payment for writing going toward expenses, including staff salaries.) In fact, we’ve already hired the reporter: Cat Ferguson, with whose byline readers will be familiar by now. Thanks to the generosity of you — our readers — we were able to hire Cat as an intern this summer. From day one, her work was terrific, and so when we had the chance in October, we made her a full-time employee.
That means we need a full-time editor, and a database developer, so please spread the word and get in touch if you know of any candidates.
In addition to the database, the grant will allow us to write more for other outlets, taking deeper dives, as we did in “The Peer Review Scam” for Nature last month.
Ivan discussed the grant on BioCentury This Week yesterday. Watch here.
Thank you, MacArthur Foundation, and thank you to all of our readers who’ve supported us, critiqued us, sent us tips, contributed financially, and much, much more. We’re eager to begin this new chapter with you.