August 3rd is a big day around here — it’s our birthday. Today, we celebrate seven years since two science journalists decided, not exactly on whim but close to it, to launch a blog about retractions. Little did they know. (To hear our co-founder Ivan Oransky talk more about this milestone, check out his podcast interview with Cara Santa Maria, host of “Talk Nerdy.”)
Once again, it’s been a big year. What we’re most excited about is having launched a still-in-progress retractions database. Speaking of still in progress, here’s where we are: The database contains just shy of 8,000 carefully curated and detailed entries, which, when we first started gathering material, seemed to be most of the retractions out there. We now think that there are closer to 9,000 retractions of papers so far, which would mean we’re about 90% of the way to being complete. (For comparison, as of today, PubMed — which is almost exclusively focused on the biomedical literature, rather than all subjects — lists 5,176 retracted papers, and 5,461 retractions of publications.) Along the way, however, we have become aware of large swaths of retracted conference abstracts, some of which we’ve reported on, but most of which we haven’t. Including those, we estimate there are about 15,000 retractions — so there’s still some work to do.
Regular Retraction Watch readers may recall a remarkable story from January involving Harvard’s Lee Rubin and one of his graduate students. As we reported in Science at the time, the graduate student, Gustavo German, said he had been subjected to a forced psychiatric evaluation as “an act of revenge by Rubin, retaliation prompted by German’s allegation of scientific misconduct against Rubin and two of his students.” And a judge “agreed with German, concluding [last August] that Rubin was ‘motivated by bias and revenge, not by a legitimate interest in keeping German safe.'”
That led to a restraining order that required Rubin to remain 100 feet from German at all times — including in the lab where German was working on his PhD.
Please welcome Andrew P. Han, the newest addition to the Retraction Watch team.
Andy comes to Retraction Watch and the Center for Scientific Integrity from GenomeWeb, where he covered the explosion of CRISPR/Cas9 into the research and biotech scene over the last several years. He has also freelanced for Wired.com, Popular Mechanics.com, Newsweek, and Food & Wine.
Andy’s beat at Retraction Watch will of course be retractions, but he’ll also be helping us broaden our coverage of the intersection between scientific misconduct at the law — so if you have court documents or stories, send them along.
It takes a lot of work to clean up the scientific literature, and some researchers and organizations deserve special recognition. That’s why we’ve established a “doing the right thing” category when we see praise-worthy progress in individual retractions, and have now gone a step further: We’ve created the DiRT Award, a new annual prize to recognize particularly note-worthy behavior.
Please join us in welcoming our newest staff writer, Victoria Stern, to the Retraction Watch team.
Vicky first worked with editor Alison McCook in 2009 at The Scientist. Since then, she has been freelancing for a number of outlets, including Medscape, Scientific American Mind (where she became a contributing editor), General Surgery News, MedPage Today, and Reuters Health.
It’s been another exciting year for us at Retraction Watch. As always, there has been more to cover than we have time for. At the same time, we’ve expanded our efforts in other media, telling bigger stories and offering more analysis. And we’ve made major progress on our database — more on that in a moment.