Why detailed retraction notices are important (according to economists)

Adam Cox

When journals retract a paper but don’t explain why, what should readers think? Was the problem as simple as an administrative error by the publisher, or more concerning, like fraud? In a recent paper in Research Policy, economists led by Adam Cox at the University of Portsmouth, UK, analyzed 55 retractions from hundreds of economics journals, mostly issued between 2001 and 2016. (Does that number sound low? It should — a 2012 analysis of retractions in business and economics found they are a relatively rare occurrence.) In the new paper, Cox and his colleagues analyzed how many notices failed to provide detailed information, the potential costs of these information gaps, and what journals should do about it.

Retraction Watch: You used “rational crime theory” to analyze retraction notices and their consequence to offenders in economics. Could you explain briefly how rational crime theory works in this context?

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Is plagiarism a problem in economics? Survey of editors says … yes

Gary Hoover

In 2004, a survey of editors of economic journals found 3 out of 10 had seen at least one case of plagiarism within the past year. More than a decade later, has the problem gotten better? Or worse? Gary Hoover at the University of Oklahoma, who co-authored the 2004 paper, decided to revisit the issue by resurveying editors in economics, along with others working in different fields. What he found — and reported in Social Science Quarterly — was plagiarism is still a problem, which economists want to address.

Retraction Watch: Why did you want to revisit the findings from the 2004 survey of editors in economics 10 years later?

Continue reading Is plagiarism a problem in economics? Survey of editors says … yes

Caught Our Notice: Brian Wansink issues correction that’s longer than original paper

Title: Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools

What Caught Our Attention: One thing can be said for the corrections for Brian Wansink‘s papers — they aren’t short.  After James Heathers outlined some of his concerns about the highly cited study back in March, 2017, the journal has issued a correction, and it’s longer (1636 words) than the original, highly cited paper (1401 words). Some of the changes include explaining the children studied were preschoolers (3-5 years old), not preteens (8-11), as originally claimed. (It may be hard to imagine how the authors could make such a mistake, but they did it once before, in another retracted paper.) Even with all those words explaining the correction — we’re only including an excerpt of the entire notice below — some concerns still remain: Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Brian Wansink issues correction that’s longer than original paper

“Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper

A journal has withdrawn an essay that called for a return to colonialism after the editor received alleged threats tied to the article.

Soon after Third World Quarterly published the controversial essay, readers began to object. When the journal defended its decision, 15 editorial board members resigned in response. More than 10,000 people signed a petition to have it retracted. On September 26, the publisher posted a statement — including a detailed timeline of the paper’s peer review process — and said the the author had requested to withdraw the article. However, in the statement, the publisher said that “peer-reviewed research articles cannot simply be withdrawn but must have grounds for retraction.”

The journal has since changed its position, and withdrawn the paper entirely from its site, posting this notice in its place:

Continue reading “Credible threats of personal violence” against editor prompt withdrawal of colonialism paper

Errors in govt database prompt authors to retract and replace paper in JAMA journal

Researchers have retracted and replaced a June 2016 paper in JAMA Internal Medicine after discovering errors in their data.

The paper explored whether Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) — groups of health care providers who earn more when they deliver high-quality care without boosting costs  — improve care and lower health care costs for Medicare patients. The paper’s corresponding author, Carrie H. Colla, and her colleagues examined Medicare data over five years and found the ACOs provided “ modest savings on average”  and less hospital care.  

But the data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) contained errors. According to Colla, after the paper was published, CMS “let us know in the fall [2016] that there were errors in the files, but weren’t able to give us final replacement files until winter.” Continue reading Errors in govt database prompt authors to retract and replace paper in JAMA journal

“A gut-wrenching experience:” Authors retract, replace JAMA paper

When economist Jason Hockenberry looked at data comparing some of the financial issues facing different U.S. hospitals, he was surprised by what he saw.

Hockenberry was examining the effects of a recently introduced U.S. program that penalizes hospitals with relatively high rates of readmissions for certain conditions by reducing Medicare payments. Although Hockenberry expected hospitals that serve low-income and uninsured patients to have more readmissions (and therefore more penalties), he saw these so-called “safety-net hospitals” had been steadily improving their performance since the program began in 2012, and had faced fewer penalties over time.

The results were so striking, they ended up in JAMA on April 18, 2017. But within one week after publication, Hockenberry learned outside researchers had raised questions about the analysis.

The outside researchers thought the authors had incorrectly categorized some of the safety-net hospitals. After looking into their concerns, Hockenberry — based at Emory University in Atlanta — realized the analysis did contain errors that affect the findings. This week, he and his co-authors retracted the article, replacing it with a corrected version. The new paper still reports that the gap between the penalties faced by safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals is closing — but not for the reasons they initially thought.  

Continue reading “A gut-wrenching experience:” Authors retract, replace JAMA paper

Article defending colonialism draws rebuke, journal defends choice to publish

Facing a volley of criticism for publishing an essay that called for a return to colonialism, a journal editor has defended his decision to print the article.

The Case for Colonialism,” published Sept. 8 in Third World Quarterly (TWQ), was written by Bruce Gilley, a professor of political science at Portland State University. For an idea of what the piece was about, here’s the beginning of the abstract:

For the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. It is high time to question this orthodoxy. Western colonialism was, as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts.

Since the essay came out, scholars have criticized both the article itself and the journal’s decision to publish it. Several critics have called for retraction. [Update: 15 members of the editorial board have resigned in response.]

One group of critics wrote that they objected to the essay because:

Continue reading Article defending colonialism draws rebuke, journal defends choice to publish

Did the author of a now-retracted article bribe a critic to silence him?

Authors react in a variety of ways to criticism of their work. Some stonewall, some grit their teeth but make corrections, and others thank their critics. But what about bribery? Continue reading Did the author of a now-retracted article bribe a critic to silence him?

Want to appeal a journal’s rejection? Sure — that’ll be $700

Different journals follow different editorial policies — but we’ve never seen any charge money to authors who want to appeal an editorial decision. Until now.

Recently, a criminal justice researcher sent us links to multiple journals that charge appeal fees. For instance, the Journal of Accounting Research says authors must pay $500 for each submission — and another $500 if they want the journal to reconsider its decision to reject the paper.

Under “Appeals,” the journal writes:

Continue reading Want to appeal a journal’s rejection? Sure — that’ll be $700

When most faculty publish in predatory journals, does the school become “complicit?”

Derek Pyne

Predatory journals – which charge high fees and often offer little-to-no vetting of research quality – are a problem, and lately an easy target for authors eager to spoof the problems of the publishing system. Although many researchers try to steer clear, not all do – a recent paper showed that some top economists publish papers in potentially predatory journals. Now, a new paper in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing reports the problem may be even more widespread. Derek Pyne found that most of his colleagues at the School of Business and Economics at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada have at least one paper in a predatory journal. We talked to Pyne about how his colleagues and administrators reacted to his findings – and how he believes they should address them.

Retraction Watch: Why did you decide to look at how many of your colleagues in the business school have published in predatory journals?

Continue reading When most faculty publish in predatory journals, does the school become “complicit?”