Have you seen our “unhelpful retraction notices” category, a motley collection of vague, misleading, and even information-free entries? We’d like to make it obsolete, and we need our readers’ help.
Here’s what we mean: Next month, Ivan will be traveling to Rio to take part in the World Conference on Research Integrity. One of his presentations is a set of proposed guidelines for retraction notices and their dissemination that we hope will inform publishing practices and severely limit the number of entries in our “unhelpful retraction notices” category. In September, for example, we announced that our guidelines would be linked from PRE-val, which “verifies for the end user that content has gone through the peer review process and provides information that is vital to assessing the quality of that process.”
Here’s a draft of our proposed guidelines, which include many of the items recommended by the Committee on Publication Ethics and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors:
Retraction notices meeting bare minimum requirements will:
- include the reason for retraction, in clear, unambiguous language that differentiates misconduct from honest error
- indicate which aspects of the paper are affected (i.e. which specific data or conclusions are invalid)
- indicate who initiated the retraction and which authors agreed to the retraction
- be linked prominently from all versions of the abstract
- be freely available (not paywalled)
- be communicated swiftly to indexes (eg PubMed, Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge)
- be marked clearly as a retraction, rather than erratum or corrigendum
- indicate when the retraction notice was published (to differentiate this date clearly from when the original paper was published).
Optimal notices will:
- indicate when the journal was first alerted to potential problems
- indicate whether there was an institutional investigation, and if so, the result
- indicate whether other papers by the same group will be affected
- only include statements about more recent replications if these have been validated by a third party
- avoid euphemisms (eg for plagiarism)
- indicate whether the authors will be sanctioned by the journal
- indicate whether any lawsuits have been filed regarding the case
We look forward to your suggestions, which will inform our presentation and the final version of these guidelines, which we hope to publish. Feel free to comment below, or email us.