Retraction Watch (RW): Why do you think it’s important for journals to provide a reason for retraction?
Evelyne Decullier & Hervé Maisonneuve (ED and HM): Correcting the literature is key for ensuring the quality of data and that the scientific method is respected. Readers should at least be able to differentiate retractions for honest errors from retractions for fraud or plagiarism.
Is open peer review the future? The EMBO Journal has offered it since 2009. eLife offers it. They’re not alone, although they’re still in the minority (a fact Irene Hames wishes would change). Elsevier, one of the world’s largest publishers, has tried a pilot of it, too, so we thought it would be worth finding out what happened. We spoke to Bahar Mehmani, Elsevier’s lead for reviewer experience, about the project, and lessons learned.
As many readers know, even after a paper’s retracted, it will continue to be cited — often by researchers who don’t realize the findings are problematic. But when, and in what context, do those citations occur? In a recent paper in Scientometrics, Judit Bar-Ilan of Bar-Ilan University in Israel and Gali Haleviat Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York examine what happened to nearly 1,000 retracted papers over time, including how long it took to pull them, and when and how often they continue to be cited. We spoke with Bar-Ilan and Halevi about what worries them about their findings — and why they believe Elsevier could help fix the problem.
Retraction Watch: As you note, there have been a number of studies of retractions. What do you hope this study contributes?
In September 2014, an investigation into the work of an award-winning cancer researcher in Illinois concluded that multiple papers had been affected by misconduct. Now, nearly four years later, two of those articles have been retracted.
What happened in the intervening years reveals a complicated and at times bizarre story involving not only scientific misconduct, but accusations of mistreatment of lab members, gambling debts, and a failed lawsuit.
In 2014, the researcher, Jasti Rao, filed a lawsuit against his former employer, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, which conducted the misconduct investigation, along with his two former supervisors, accusing them of discrimination and violation of due process.
The investigation focused on both research misconduct and alleged ethics infractions, including taking cash from employees. Court documents reveal that Rao admitted to gambling during work hours, and after he was late in paying debts — including one worth $75,000 — his credit was suspended by the Par-A-Dice Casino in Peoria.