We tend to get certain questions over and over, so we figured we’d gather the answers in one place. We’ll add to this list as other common questions come up. You may also find it useful to read our first post, “Why write a blog about retractions?”
Why do you guys do this?
Who funds you?
In December 2014, the MacArthur Foundation gave us a generous grant to continue our work and build a database of retractions.
Why was my comment not approved?
[Updated July 25, 2015] We are huge fans of Retraction Watch commenters. They broaden our posts, send us tips, and correct us when we get things wrong. Without them, the site would be a shadow of itself. However, we have recently found ourselves having to edit ad hominem attacks out of comments, unapprove other comments, and contact some commenters to remind them of what’s appropriate.
It may not be clear to those who feel the need to resort to such personal attacks that they destroy the discourse that we and others have worked so hard to build on Retraction Watch, but it is abundantly clear to us and many others. The same goes for unfounded allegations and unverified facts.
We will not tolerate these sorts of attacks, allegations, and unverified facts. In the past, we have simply edited out the parts of comments that violate this policy, or engaged in email exchanges with commenters about particular passages. However, while a number of readers thanked us for raising the level of discourse and for correcting errors, rather than simply unapproving whole comments, we have received negative feedback on this practice from a small number of readers. Some have recommended that we add a note to say what has been deleted or edited, but we have found in the past that some commenters repost the problematic passages to ask other readers whether they should have been approved.
So we will now do away with editing comments, and will not approve any that contain material that violates this policy, even if it is a small part of a larger comment. While that means useful information may not be posted if it is included in a comment that violates these guidelines, users are welcome to rewrite comments so that they conform to our policy. They are also welcome to contact us — using the email addresses provided in our About pages — to ask why a given comment was not approved. If instead they choose to leave a comment asking why another was not approved, we may respond, time permitting, provided that they used a working email address.
There’s a really important retraction in my field from January 2010. I can’t believe you guys haven’t covered it!
We launched Retraction Watch in August 2010, and although we didn’t predict this, it’s been a struggle to even keep up with retractions as they happen. While we occasionally dip into history in our “Best Of” series, realistically we don’t want to fall even further behind. If we ever have the resources to grow the site, this will be one of our priorities.
Why are so many of the retractions you cover from the life sciences?
There are a number of reasons for this. The two most important are that 1) we’re both medical reporters in our day jobs, so our sources and knowledge base are both deeper in the life sciences and 2) there are more papers published in the life sciences than in other areas. We’d love your help beefing up our physical sciences section, so keep those tips coming.
Everyone agrees that this paper has to be retracted. Why haven’t you covered it?
Just like retractions from the past, this is a resource issue. We wholeheartedly agree it’s important to check out tips — anonymous or not — about potentially dodgy papers. But doing that right would require a much larger team, so we’ve decided that publicizing retractions that do happen — and finding out why papers were retracted, not always a simple task — was a better use of our efforts.
Is there a reliable database of retractions?
No. There are ways to search Medline and the Web of Science for retractions, but there’s no single database. We’ve been approached about creating one, and would love to take on that project, building on the categorization that we already offer in our right-hand column. We even have some ideas about how it could pay for itself. But we’d need some help — financial and technological. So if you can offer resources, please get in touch: ivan-oransky [at] erols.com.
How can I support your work?
Thanks for asking! We appreciate every reader and commenter, and that’s really enough for us. But if you’re so inclined, please send tips to ivan-oransky [at] erols.com and adam.marcus1 [at] gmail.com. And if you’re even more inclined, have a look at the Retraction Watch Store. (We had a donation button for a while, but quickly realized it was creating conflicts of interest, as much as we appreciated our donors whose funding we had to return.) And if you’re from a non-profit foundation or university and are really inclined, send us an email.