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?
A journal has withdrawn an essay that called for a return to colonialism after the editor received alleged threats tied to the article.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 However, in the statement, the publisher said that “peer-reviewed research articles cannot simply be withdrawn but must have grounds for retraction.”
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.
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.
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.]
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 Researchsays authors must pay $500 for each submission — and another $500 if they want the journal to reconsider its decision to reject the paper.