In yet more evidence that retracted studies continue to accrue citations, a new paper has shown that nearly half of anesthesiologist Scott Reuben’s papers have been cited five years after being retracted, and only one-fourth of citations correctly note the retraction.
According to the new paper, in Science and Engineering Ethics:
Our data show that even 5 years after their retraction, nearly half of Reuben’s articles are still being quoted and the retraction status is correctly mentioned in only one quarter of the citations.
The latest paper, “Perpetuation of Retracted Publications Using the Example of the Scott S. Reuben Case: Incidences, Reasons and Possible Improvements,” wanted to find out what happened next:
In this study, to better understand the perpetuation of discredited research, we examine the number of citations of Reuben’s articles within 5 years of their retraction.
Between 2009 and 2014, the authors counted 274 citations for 20 of Reuben’s papers. By 2014, 45% of the retracted articles had been cited one or more times; only 25.8% of citations noted the work was retracted. Annual citations fell sharply from 2009 to 2014, but so did the percentage of publications that noted the retractions.
These findings dovetail with other research – such as by John Budd at the University of Missouri — that suggests continued citation of retracted papers is a problem. The new study doesn’t cite Budd et al’s work, but when we presented that point to study author Helmar Bornemann-Cimenti at the Medical University of Graz in Austria, he agreed:
In fact, our paper shows that perpetuation of retracted publications is still an ongoing problem in our scientific community. Our data confirm the findings of the studies you quoted. In addition, we could demonstrate that, despite the overall number of citations of retracted publications is decreasing over the years, the percentage of correctly labeled citations dropped even more.
Budd concurred that the latest paper agrees with some of his previous conclusions.
The paper is useful as yet another examination of egregious misconduct. I’m happy to see that the authors tracked citations; as you know, this is one of my concerns.
There’s another helpful aspect of the new paper — it alerted us to three additional retractions from Reuben that we hadn’t yet discovered. Before reading the paper, Reuben was in 15th place on our leaderboard, with 22 retractions. He’s now in 14th place, with a total of 25. The additional papers are:
- “Preventing the development of chronic pain after orthopaedic surgery with preventive multimodal analgesic techniques,” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery
- “COX-2 inhibitors in sports medicine: utility and controversy,” British Journal of Sports Medicine
- “Evaluation of the safety and efficacy of the perioperative administration of rofecoxib for total knee arthroplasty,” The Journal of Arthoplasty
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