A retraction milestone: 200 for one author

Ludwigshafen Hospital, via Wikimedia

Numbers are everywhere in retraction land lately: A record 10,000-plus retractions in 2023. 19 journals shut down at Wiley. Now here’s another.

Readers who have checked the Retraction Watch leaderboard lately may have picked up on something notable: One researcher, Joachim Boldt, has now been credited with 210 retractions – making him the first author (to our knowledge) with more than 200 retractions to his name. 

Boldt’s new tally – representing about half of his roughly 400 publications – admittedly is an accounting change rather than new problems being identified. Some journals have only now come around to acting on the corrupt articles. In that sense, it reflects both progress and a frustrating lack of concern-slash-urgency on the part of the journals that have taken more than a decade to resolve the case.

As we and others have reported, the Boldt saga began about 14 years ago with emails to Steve Shafer, then the editor-in-chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia, pointing out suspicious data in a study the German anesthesiologist had published in the journal in late 2009. (The BMJ has a helpful timeline about the case, including a bright line linking Boldt’s fraudulent research to potential harm to patients.)

Shafer, who is now a member of the board of directors of the Center For Scientific Integrity, our parent non-profit organizaztion, eventually became dissatisfied with Boldt’s responses, and then lack of responses, to his questions about the data, and helped trigger an initial institutional investigation into the researcher’s work. Anesthesiology’s recognition that there were problems in the literature – which came earlier for the field than for the vast majority of others – is likely responsible for the fact that so many anesthesiology researchers are among the authors with the most retractions in the world.

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