“Whoops.” Paper cites retracted gay canvassing paper — but blame me, says journal editor

arch sex behavBy now, most Retraction Watch readers are likely familiar with the retraction in May of a much-ballyhooed study in Science on whether gay canvassers could persuade people to agree with same-sex marriage. It turns out that before that retraction appeared, a different study that cited the Science paper made its way online.

Kenneth Zucker, the editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior, which published the study online in February, 2015, decided he had some ‘splaining to do. The article has now been published as the lead paper in the current issue of the journal, which also includes a comment from Zucker. He explains what happened:

In December 2014, when the submission was accepted for publication, I wrote the following to the authors: “Please see the recent article in Science by LaCour and Green (2014). Take a look at this article and see if it should be added to the paper.” The authors did take a look and referenced the LaCour and Green study.

Whoops. As many readers now know, the LaCour and Green article has been retracted by Science (McNutt,2015), for reasons that have been well explicated upon in the media (e.g., Carey & Belluck, 2015). Loehr et al. should not be faulted for citing an article published in a prestigious peer-reviewed Journal and reference to it in no way detracts from the soundness of their own study.

Zucker tells Retraction Watch how he arrived at his course of action:

Because the Loehr et al. article was already published online before the LaCour situation came to light, we cannot alter the article itself when it appears in a print issue–that is why I came up with the idea of writing this brief comment, to alert readers to the story, and also to protect Loehr et al.

Seems like a transparent way to handle things, and take responsibility. Kudos.

Thomson Scientific doesn’t list any other studies that cite the LaCour study, only the retraction notice, expression of concern, and a story in Nature about the controversy. As readers may recall, retracted papers are often cited for years, without any mention of the retraction.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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