Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Half of anesthesiology fraudster’s papers continue to be cited years after retractions

with 6 comments

ethicsIn 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.

Reuben, a Massachusetts anesthesiologist who fabricated data, spent six months in federal prison for his crimes. In 2009, it was found he’d fabricated data in many papers, and now has 25 retractions.

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 By 2014, 45% of the retracted articles had been cited one or more times; only 25.8% of citations noted the work was retracted.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:

Like Retraction Watch? Consider supporting our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, and sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post. Click here to review our Comments Policy.

Comments
  • Rolf Degen July 14, 2015 at 11:54 am

    On a similar note, almost half of all retracted papers by Diederik Stapel are still being cited:

    http://www.volkskrant.nl/wetenschap/wetenschappers-halen-malafide-studies-van-stapel-nog-altijd-aan~a4083746/

  • AMC July 14, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve got to admit that I could very well be guilty of the mistake of citing a retracted paper since I usually use my locally saved copies of papers to refer to when I’m writing. I do this because of our university’s ever changing list of journal subscriptions sometimes means I don’t always have access to papers I once did so I tend to save the pdfs when I can. I guess, in the future, I should double check my citations before sending out manuscripts.

    • Lee Rudolph July 14, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      I do this because of our university’s ever changing list of journal subscriptions sometimes means I don’t always have access to papers I once did so I tend to save the pdfs when I can.

      And that is one of the worst consequences of the situation that the mega-publishers have engineered, in my opinion: that there is no longer anything like “the stacks” of the library, where old copies of journals are kept in perpetuity, because when your institution stops its subscription to the electronic version of (say) Springer’s journals, it loses its access to the back issues equally with its access to the future issues.

      so I tend to save the pdfs when I can

      As do I. I anticipate advances in DRM that will make “when I can” more and more infrequent.

  • VM Kern July 14, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Yet another paywall sin.
    How to straightforwardly check for possible retractions?
    I bet Google Scholar will soon be labeling “retracted”, but the ones who should really care about it are sleeping.

    AMC
    … I usually use my locally saved copies of papers to refer to when I’m writing. I do this because of our university’s ever changing list of journal subscriptions sometimes means I don’t always have access to papers I once did …

  • Todd July 15, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I too miss “the stacks”. I was really sad to walk in the library one time and find they were all gone, just to be replaced by study tables with dry erase boards close by for students to study. Seemed like there should be room for both.

    I proposed a study the other day to review all the clinical practice guidelines used at the hospital I’m affiliated with, and find out if any of them reference retracted or correct papers, and evaluate the impact of those items. It fell on apathetic ears. Perhaps I’ll do it myself.

  • Christian April 20, 2016 at 8:01 am

    “only 25.8% of citations noted the work was retracted”

    Should there be a note in the “references/bibliography” or does this mean directly in the text of an article? For example, when a paper is about retracted articles, they always also cite some retracted articles as examples.

  • Post a comment

    Threaded commenting powered by interconnect/it code.