If you’ve searched recently for retracted articles in PubMed — the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s database of scientific abstracts — you may have noticed something new.
In fact, you may have had trouble ignoring it, which is sort of the point. “It” is a large salmon banner that looks something like this:
Check one out here.
We were wondering if the aims were similar to those of the retraction database we’re beginning to build — i.e., to make retractions more transparent — so we asked the National Library of Medicine’s Hilda Bastian to explain the changes.
Retraction Watch: PubMed has recently introduced a large banner on abstracts of retracted articles. Why?
Hilda Bastian: Retracted articles have been prominently stamped in PMC (PubMed Central), but retraction was part of the “fine print” on PubMed records. It was more easy to overlook. Now retraction status is prominent in both PubMed and PMC. PubMed alone can’t stop the continuing problem of people being unaware of a retraction when they use or cite an article. [Ed: See this post for some background on the problem of articles continuing to be cited after they’re retracted.] We can reduce the chances of it happening if they first come across an article in PubMed after its retraction, though.
RW: Links to relevant Federal Register notices about Office of Research Integrity findings of fraud and misconduct were also recently introduced. Was this part of the same effort?
HB: No, this is a new effort to review post-publication activity comprehensively, now that PubMed Commons has become a permanent part of PubMed. But we are looking at the visibility and accessibility of these findings across the PubMed system as well.
RW: Are there other plans for making corrections and retractions more visible on PubMed?
HB: We are in the process of evaluating post-publication activity on literature in PubMed in several ways. That includes considering the accessibility of the full range, including comments, letters, corrections, retractions, withdrawn publications, and research misconduct findings. We are looking at several options for changes and functionality. We will be publishing our analyses, and making the data openly available so others can explore post-publication activity on PubMed as well.
RW: For some publishers, there seems to still be some delay between when a paper is retracted and when it appears that way on PubMed. Have you seen progress in that area?
HB: We are looking at the present processes to see if there are any opportunities for reducing time lags. A new PubMed Data Management System will be introduced later this year and we are looking carefully at post-publication activity across the board within that transition, which aims to make publisher submission of data easier and quicker.
For more on what various institutions are doing to highlight and improve retractions, follow us on Twitter, where we’ll be posting today and tomorrow from “Keeping The Pool Clean,” a conference at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
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