From our mailbox:
I’m writing regarding a recent query from an author about citation of a retracted article. The author is currently writing up a paper where the initial investigations were at least partially inspired by a paper that has recently been retracted. The author wants to recognise the influence of that work on the new study, but also recognises that – since the paper has been retracted – it would not be appropriate simply to cite it as though it were still a published paper. This isn’t a situation we’ve come across before, and I’m not sure how best to advise the author. Is it acceptable to discuss the findings of that paper provided the text clearly mentions that the paper has since been retracted? And how should this be cited in the reference list – citation to the original paper, to the retraction notice, or not at all? As experts in this area, any guidance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Retraction Watch readers may be familiar with our leaderboard of most-cited retracted papers, several of which have been cited hundreds of times since they were retracted. The problem is when such citations of retracted papers don’t indicate that the studies are retracted — which remains a problem.
Our recommendation? It’s perfectly fine to cite a retracted paper, as long as the retraction is noted. Ideally, the we’d suggest citing both the paper and the retraction notice, which (according to best practices) should have different DOIs. And you can check for retracted papers in our database.
Publishers should conduct thorough reference checks to detect citations of retracted articles and remove them. If an article lists or refers to a retracted publication, a clear notice of retraction should be listed in the reference list and the reference text as well. Editors should question why authors cite retracted publications and unless the editor and the peer reviewers are convinced that the citation is essential, references to retracted articles should be removed.
Finally, here’s what experts recommend if a paper you’ve cited is later retracted.
Have a question for us? Email email@example.com.
Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here. If you have comments or feedback, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.