Journals are failing to address duplication in the literature, says a new study

Mario Malički

How seriously are journals taking duplicated work that they publish? That was the question Mario Malički and colleagues set out to answer six years ago. And last month, they published their findings in Biochemia Medica.

The upshot? Journals have a lot of work to do. Continue reading Journals are failing to address duplication in the literature, says a new study

Which kind of peer review is best for catching fraud?

Serge Horbach

Is peer review a good way to weed out problematic papers? And if it is, which kinds of peer review? In a new paper in Scientometrics, Willem Halffman, of Radboud University, and Serge Horbach, of Radboud University and Leiden University, used our database of retractions to try to find out. We asked them several questions about the new work.

Retraction Watch (RW): You write that “journals’ use of peer review to identify fraudulent research is highly contentious.” Can you explain what you mean? Continue reading Which kind of peer review is best for catching fraud?

Want to tell if a paper has been retracted? Good luck

Caitlin Bakker

Nowadays, there are many ways to access a paper — on the publisher’s website, on MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and other outlets. So when the publisher retracts a paper, do these outlets consistently mark it as such? And if they don’t, what’s the impact? Researchers Caitlin Bakker and Amy Riegelman at the University of Minnesota surveyed more than one hundred retractions in mental health research to try to get at some answers, and published their findings in the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication. We spoke to Bakker about the potential harm to patients when clinicians don’t receive consistent notifications about retracted data.

Retraction Watch: You note: “Of the 144 articles studied, only 10 were represented as being retracted across all resources through which they were available. There was no platform that consistently met or failed to meet all of [the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)’s] guidelines.” Can you say more about these findings, and the challenges they may pose?

Continue reading Want to tell if a paper has been retracted? Good luck

20 years of retractions in China: More of them, and more misconduct

Lei Lei

After reviewing nearly 20 years of retractions from researchers based in China, researchers came up with some somewhat unsurprising (yet still disheartening) findings: The number of retractions has increased (from zero in 1997 to more than 150 in 2016), and approximately 75% were due to some kind of misconduct. (You can read more details in the paper, published this month in Science and Engineering Ethics.) We spoke with first author Lei Lei, based in the School of Foreign Languages at Huazhong University of Science and Technology, about what he thinks can be done to improve research integrity in his country.

Retraction Watch: With “Lack of Improvement” right in the title (“Lack of Improvement in Scientific Integrity: An Analysis of WoS Retractions by Chinese Researchers (1997-2016)”), you sound disappointed with your findings.  What findings did you expect — or at least hope — to find, and what are your reactions to the results you did uncover?

Continue reading 20 years of retractions in China: More of them, and more misconduct

Why do researchers commit misconduct? A new preprint offers some clues

Daniele Fanelli

“Why Do Scientists Fabricate And Falsify Data?” That’s the start of the title of a new preprint posted on bioRxiv this week by researchers whose names Retraction Watch readers will likely find familiar. Daniele Fanelli, Rodrigo Costas, Ferric Fang (a member of the board of directors of our parent non-profit organization), Arturo Casadevall, and Elisabeth Bik have all studied misconduct, retractions, and bias. In the new preprint, they used a set of papers from PLOS ONE shown in earlier research to have included manipulated images to test what factors were linked to such misconduct. The results confirmed some earlier work, but also provided some evidence contradicting previous findings. We spoke to Fanelli by email.

Retraction Watch (RW): This paper builds on a previous study by three of your co-authors, on the rate of inappropriate image manipulation in the literature. Can you explain how it took advantage of those findings, and why that was an important data set? Continue reading Why do researchers commit misconduct? A new preprint offers some clues

Stuck in limbo: What happens to papers flagged by journals as potentially problematic?

Hilda Bastian from the National Library of Medicine

Expressions of concern, as regular Retraction Watch readers will know, are rare but important signals in the scientific record. Neither retractions nor corrections, they alert readers that there may be an issue with a paper, but that the full story is not yet clear. But what ultimately happens to papers flagged by these editorial notices? How often are they eventually retracted or corrected, and how often do expressions of concern linger indefinitely? Hilda Bastian and two colleagues from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which runs PubMed, recently set out to try to answer those questions. We talked to her about the project by email.

Retraction Watch (RW): The National Library of Medicine recently decided to index expressions of concern, which it hadn’t before. Why the change? Continue reading Stuck in limbo: What happens to papers flagged by journals as potentially problematic?

Does social psychology really have a retraction problem?

Armin Günther

That’s the question posed by Armin Günther at the Leibniz Institute for Psychology Information in Germany in a recent presentation. There is some evidence to suggest that psychology overall has a problem — the number of retractions has increased four-fold since 1989, and some believe the literature is plagued with errors. Social psychologist Diederik Stapel is number three on our leaderboard, with 58 retractions.

But does any particular field have more retractions, on average, than others? Günther examines some trends and provides his thoughts on the state of the field. Take a look at his presentation (we recommend switching to full-screen view): Continue reading Does social psychology really have a retraction problem?

Retractions holding steady at more than 650 in FY2016

pubmedDrumroll please.

The tally of retractions in MEDLINE — one of the world’s largest databases of scientific abstracts — for the last fiscal year has just been released, and the number is: 664.

Earlier this year, we scratched our heads over the data from 2015, which showed retractions had risen dramatically, to 684. The figures for this fiscal year — which ended in September — have held relatively steadily at that higher number, only dropping by 3%. (For some sense of scale, there were just shy of 870,000 new abstracts indexed in MEDLINE in FY2016; 664 is a tiny fraction of this figure, and of course not all of the retractions were of papers published in FY2016.)

Of note: In FY2014, there were fewer than 500 retractions — creating an increase of nearly 40% between 2014 and 2015. (Meanwhile, the number of citations indexed by MEDLINE rose only few percentage points over the same time period.) Which means the retraction rate in the last two years is dramatically higher than in 2014.

We have often wondered whether the retraction rate would ever reach a plateau, as the community’s ability to find problems in the literature catches up with the amount of problems present in the literature. But based on two years of data, we can’t say anything definitive about that.

Here’s an illustration of retraction data from recent years:

Continue reading Retractions holding steady at more than 650 in FY2016

What do retractions look like in Korean journals?

plos-one-better-sizeA new analysis of retractions from Korean journals reveals some interesting trends.

For one, the authors found most papers in Korean journals are retracted for duplication (57%), a higher rate than what’s been reported in other studies. The authors also deemed some retractions were “inappropriate” according to guidelines established by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) — for instance, retracting the article another paper duplicated from, or pulling a paper when an erratum would have sufficed.

One sentence from “Characteristics of Retractions from Korean Medical Journals in the KoreaMed Database: A Bibliometric Analysis,” however, particularly struck us:  Continue reading What do retractions look like in Korean journals?

MEDLINE/PubMed will stop identifying partial retractions. Here’s why.

pubmedRetraction Watch readers may be familiar with partial retractions. They’re rare, and not always appreciated: The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) says that “they’re not helpful because they make it difficult for readers to determine the status of the article and which parts may be relied upon.”

Today, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), which runs MEDLINE/PubMed, announced that the vast database of scholarly literature abstracts is no longer going to identify partial retractions.

We spoke to NLM’s David Gillikin about the change: Continue reading MEDLINE/PubMed will stop identifying partial retractions. Here’s why.