The Retraction Watch FAQ, including comments policy

We tend to get certain questions over and over, so we figured we’d gather the answers in one place. We’ll add to this list as other common questions come up. You may also find it useful to read our first post, “Why write a blog about retractions?”

Why do you guys do this?

Good question. Read our first post.

Who funds you?

In December 2014, the MacArthur Foundation gave us a generous grant to continue our work and build a database of retractions. The Arnold Foundation has been funding us since August 2015, and the Helmsley Trust since November 2015. All of these grants have ended, so we rely on readers’ support.

More recently, our journalism has also been funded by a generous grant from the WoodNext Foundation. On the database side, the acquisition of The Retraction Watch Database by Crossref provides sustainability.

I suspect misconduct in a paper. What should I do?

Read this.

Great, but I need more specific advice than that. Can you help?

While we understand that the rules, procedures, and varying practices by journals, institutions, funding agencies and others can be confusing, or even demoralizing, we can’t offer advice in specific cases. We’re a journalism organization, and offering suggestions to people involved in a developing or ongoing story would be like a business reporter recommending stocks. Neither can we advocate for or against a retraction. Our editorial independence must come first, or we lose credibility. We appreciate your understanding, and will suggest other resources when feasible. We may also ask if you’d provide documents and other material so that we can cover the story.

Why was my comment not approved?

We are huge fans of Retraction Watch commenters. They broaden our posts, send us tips, and correct us when we get things wrong. Without them, the site would be a shadow of itself. However, we have recently found ourselves having to edit ad hominem attacks out of comments, unapprove other comments, and contact some commenters to remind them of what’s appropriate.

It may not be clear to those who feel the need to resort to such personal attacks that they destroy the discourse that we and others have worked so hard to build on Retraction Watch, but it is abundantly clear to us and many others. The same goes for unfounded allegations and unverified facts.

We will not tolerate these sorts of attacks, allegations, and unverified facts — a category that includes speculation, whether about what might have happened, or about the mindset of the people involved. To repeat: If verifying your comment requires mind-reading or knowing their motivations, it it unlikely to be approved. We will not edit comments, and will not approve any that contain material that violates this policy, even if it is a small part of a larger comment. While that means useful information may not be posted if it is included in a comment that violates these guidelines, users are welcome to rewrite comments so that they conform to our policy. They are also welcome to contact us — using the email addresses provided in our About pages — to ask why a given comment was not approved. If instead they choose to leave a comment asking why another was not approved, we may respond, time permitting, provided that they used a working email address.

There’s a really important retraction in my field from January 2010. I can’t believe you guys haven’t covered it!

We launched Retraction Watch in August 2010, and although we didn’t predict this, it’s been a struggle to even keep up with retractions as they happen. While we occasionally dip into history in our “Best Of” series, realistically we don’t want to fall even further behind. If we ever have the resources to grow the site, this will be one of our priorities.

Why are so many of the retractions you cover from the life sciences?

There are a number of reasons for this. The two most important are that 1) we’re both medical reporters in our day jobs, so our sources and knowledge base are both deeper in the life sciences and 2) there are more papers published in the life sciences than in other areas. We’d love your help beefing up our physical sciences section, so keep those tips coming.

Everyone agrees that this paper has to be retracted. Why haven’t you covered it?

Just like retractions from the past, this is a resource issue. We wholeheartedly agree it’s important to check out tips — anonymous or not — about potentially dodgy papers. But doing that right would require a much larger team, so we’ve decided that publicizing retractions that do happen — and finding out why papers were retracted, not always a simple task — was a better use of our efforts.

Is there a reliable database of retractions?

Yes, we’ve built one.

How can I support your work?

Thanks for asking! We appreciate every reader and commenter, and that’s really enough for us. But if you’re so inclined, please send tips to [email protected]. And if you’re even more inclined, you can make a one-time tax-deductible contribution by PayPal or by Square, or a monthly tax-deductible donation by Paypal to support our work — and thanks! To send a check, make it out to “The Center For Scientific Integrity” and mail it to:

121 W. 36th St.
Suite 209
New York, NY 10018

61 thoughts on “The Retraction Watch FAQ, including comments policy”

  1. Hello Sir,
    I got an email from a friend who is getting pressure to help “rephrase to avoid the similiarity” between a paper his old lab wants to publish. Apparently, the lab has submitted the manuscript and the editor claimed that it was remarkably similar to a previously published paper from the same group. Now he is pressuring my friend to change it (he highlighted all the text in blue that he wanted to change). I am copying to you the email exchange because it raises serious and serious concerns. I am withholding my name out of fear of retribution, but I would like to get this out to you. Can you please advise as to what to do and if this is something that we in academia should be worried about. Again, please keep me anonymous as I know the person being pressured to do this. (Though it seems he is very willing and happy to do this). I fear for humanity.
    Respectfully yours,

    From: REDACTED
    Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3:16 PM
    Subject: RE: Need your help!


    Happy Chinese New Year!

    Yes, I will be gald to help you remove the similarities of your papers.

    I have a deadline of my own at school this Friday. I can start reviewing the highlighted corrections and then email you back suggestions by Friday night or Saturday afternoon.


    I might be visiitng Gainesville again the following weekend. Let me know if Dr. Liu will be available during the next couple of weeks.



    From: REDACTED [[email protected]]
    Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 11:12 PM
    Subject: Need your help!


    Havent talked to you for a while, hope everything is going well of you.
    I attached a review paper that I finished at UF, the paper was under peer review and the editor sent back the comments to us. They may use a kind of software to check the similarity between it and the previous published paper, they found several similarities between it and our previous published paper. I marked all the similarities in ‘BLUE’, would you please help me to rephrase them to avoid the similarity?

    The edior required to send back before Feb 5th, please email me back by Feb 5.
    Many thanks!

    Kind regards,

  2. Hi Ivan. Here’s one for you to consider: the “Australian Paradox” is an obvious candidate for retraction. Reliable nutrition information is critical in the fight against obesity and diabetes (“diabesity”). In Australia, the contribution of excess sugar consumption to obesity has been exonerated by high-profile but over-confident academics/scientists with very strong links to the sugar industry and other sugar sellers.

    No surprise I guess, but what’s interesting is that this deeply flawed paper with its recklessly false conclusion – “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity, the Australian Paradox! – was published in a supposedly peer-reviewed science journal. Two respected scientists have agreed publicly that the authors’ conclusion belies the readily available facts.

    I’m arguing for the shoddy paper’s retraction by the authors, the journal Nutrients and/or the University of Sydney. It’s all documented at and .

    Nothing has happened since March except that the authors have pretended their paper is fine. It isn’t. And it’s simply unreasonable to allow the false conclusion – “an inverse relationship” between sugar consumption and obesity, the Australian Paradox! – to sit uncorrected in a journal, misinforming scientists across the world via the Internet many months after the real facts have become clear.

    Because of the unreasonable delay in correcting the scientific record, one of the questions I’m now asking is when does an inadvertent series of major errors deliberately left uncorrected become an academic and scientific hoax? Any thoughts, anyone?

  3. see what the TPDS editor said:

    Thank you for bringing this matter up.
    This will be formally investigated as per procedure (by an ad hoc committee of TPDS editors).
    I in fact observed editorial misconduct of Boukerche and removed him from editorial board soon after taking over TPDS in January 2010. There is one more paper by El-Khatib also accepted by AB without due review process.
    Ivan Stojmenovic.

  4. What about “spun” papers? In a 2008 NEJM paper on antidepressants, our group presented data on 11 clinical trials that were negative according to the FDA but positive in the corresponding journal article. This was because primary outcomes, as specified a priori in the protocol, either disappeared or were downplayed, and secondary outcomes or post hoc findings were presented as the main results. This phenomenon has been called HARKing (“hypothesizing after the results are known”). Should such spun papers, which remain part of the public record, be retracted, or should corrected versions be published?

  5. Dr Turner, I reckon any such unreasonable efforts should be ridiculed in public commentary by competent people in the space who can see clearly the deception being attempted. The drivers of deliberate deception – including the authors and the offending journals – should be hounded/disrespected by serious people at every opportunity. And the papers corrected or retracted depending on the hard facts.

    1. Ok, thank you to you both! I did try and look around the blog but I guess I must’ve used the wrong search terms… Anyway, great job as usual!

      1. There are a number of bone cancer laboratories who have published a series of papers which are highly irregular. One of the most prestigious laboratories based in the US has a retraction:

        There are erratums from other groups, UK based, also:
        (is it just me or do those graphs look a bit odd with slightly uneven axis?)

        And from the same group there is a paper with a rather odd graph – fig 10 (b and c) where error bars have been removed ‘for clarity’.

        A coincidence or a trend?

  6. Here is an example of a Science result that is mostly wrong. The main claim made here, , spun in the popular science media as a “breakthrough” was found to be incorrect. This is the proof of the correction: which was also published in Science here: . Since neither the idea is correct, nor the device new, it is really a fit case for a retraction. Instead, it (somehow) survived with this sorry postscript:

  7. My name is Ari Ferreira de Abreu. I am a Professor of Accounting at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil.
    I found seven theses written by professors of the Accounting Department at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil) with plagiarism.
    There are several cases followed copied pages (4-6). But the university refuses to acknowledge the problem to avoid having to search for plagiarism of other teachers. Recognition of the problem can cause the reduction of financial resources and damage the image of the University.
    The University appointed a lawyer paid with tax money to defend plagiarists. As the University is located in a small town and the greatest plagiarists is the son of a retired judge, the case was closed with no solution.
    The lawyer claimed the University did not have a problem because there was “little plagiarism” (only 14% of the thesis) that “did not affect the outcome.”
    Thus, as there are no problems, I am “teaching” people to use these “modern research techniques” advocated by counsel for the University.
    I’m posting the theses on my blog I’m putting this blog all theses commented to be known by all. I wonder if you can help me with the release of this blog.
    Ari Ferreira de Abreu

  8. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (Conselho nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq) has established a guideline that allows plagiarism. At link: is presented the following definition of plagiarism:
    “Plagiarism: is the presentation, as if it were his own, results or conclusions previously obtained by another author, as well as complete texts or substantial part outside of texts without care detailed in the Guidelines.”
    According to CNPQ oo plagiarism is allowed provided that “small” and without using results from other researchers.

  9. A couple of minor thoughts/suggestions about RW (which I read every day without fail).

    1. I notice you rarely include the actual citation to the article being retracted. Is there a reason for this? I’d think it might be important to include a full citation just to be sure it shows up when someone does a Google search which includes more than the author and title.

    2. One of the nice features some internet media have is a button on each comment which just lets the reader say “me too,” “well said,” or whatever. It probably reduces the amount of duplicative comments. More important, since RW is now a big deal (a position it has well and truly earned), the blog gets a lot of feedback. An upvote system helps readers without a lot of time quickly identify the comments which others found interesting. Sure, this feature gets abused occasionally, but it’s usually obvious when that happens.

    Thanks and keep it up.

    1. Hi Toby, thanks for reading and for the suggestions.

      There’s no particular reason we don’t include the entire citation; as with many things it’s just a resource issue. It often takes a few extra steps to find that, thanks to the way some retractions are presented. But we do always link to the notice, which gives people something to fine. Point taken about Google searches, although from experience I think that Google will find the right reference if you give it enough material. So we’ll consider this

      Hadn’t thought about the thumbs up/thumbs down function on comments, but I just turned it on, so let’s see what happens.

      1. >”we don’t include the entire citation; as with many things it’s just a resource issue”

        I’m afraid integrity demands you find those resources.

        And I say that as one who is both astounded by this magnificent site and as one who has crash n’ burned because I did what integrity demanded (not sell fake cache cache chips for the 486).

        But I am almost as astounded by your failure to see that a link to the article in question is required. I fear that hand-waving it off to Google or someone else just don’t feed the bulldog.

        1. Thanks. This is a very old thread, as you may know. We do include links to retracted papers. This comment was about including the entire citation, which we don’t feel is a good use of resources.

    2. Yuk…really don’t like the thumbs up/thumbs down! This is quite a classy site with a well-informed set of commenters that provide a very wide set of intelligent viewpoints (even mine on occasion!). Not sure why there’s a need for an indication of comment popularity – it’s not like the is the Daily Mail or the Sun where people have to be told what they’re supposed to think or like.

      I don’t have a problem with some repetitive comments; mostly these are stated with a personal perspective, and it’s not as if there are that many comments on most threads anyway.I’d much rather have someone say specifically that they agree with my comment (or not) than to have some sort of voting (which is open to rigging if on contentious issues if other blogs are anything to go by).

      ….a definite “thumbs down” to that idea from me…

      1. No, a big frustration here is that I can’t give this cost-free moral boost to the brave whistleblowers. Its value may be infinitesimal, but it’s nonzero.


  10. Ivan, Great blog but…

    As I’ve been reading here more, I’m seeing a fair number of people posting unrelated articles in the comments. I sometimes chase down these articles trying to see whether they are from the same group or same authors, and often it’s something totally unrelated to the main topic. I wonder if you would consider posting “open threads” from time to time, and encourage people to post their unrelated finds there for discussion.

    1. I can see one of them is now being retracted, check on links. Yet, it seems that the earliest one is being retracted, which is puzzling as the official duplicate that ought to be retracted should be the most recent one? Maybe RW will comment on those in the near future.

      And what about these two studies below from same authors:

      Do I smell salami? Sorry, I do not know of the area to say, but maybe they deserved a look.

  11. My name is Ari Ferreira de Abreu, I am a professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (or Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, acronym UFSC) in Brazil. In 2012 I published an article named “Um levantamento de casos de plágio em um curso de Ciências Contábeis” (or Study of Plagiarism cases in an Accounting course) that was presented at the VII Ibero-American Congress of University Teaching.
    In that publication, I have concluded that 25 out of the 69 sample essays of undergraduate students contained plagiarism. Nevertheless, inspecting the PhD thesis of professors of the Accounting course, I have found plagiarism in 7 of them. Should my conclusions have been proved correct, irregular employments and undue wage benefits may have occurred as a consequence. Thus, the outputs of my analysis were sent to both Brazilian authorities and UFSC for further scrutiny.
    The PhD thesis where the major quantity of plagiarism was identified – 14% of copied texts from not-mentioned sources according to my study – was authored by Mr. Ferreira and included four-consecutive pages as well as copies of essays authored by his students. By analyzing this particular case, UFSC representatives recognized the existence of no more than a few extracts copied, and that collectively they did not impact the conclusions; moreover, they also expressed that the existence of a small amount of short extracts should not indicate plagiarism issues. The Brazilian Federal Police endorsed UFSC’s position and thus concluded for the non-existence of plagiarism.
    Later on, four articles authored by Mr. Borba were then examined. Copies of his earlier articles were found in 3 of them; the fourth included copies of third parties’ texts – and in all cases sources were not mentioned. Since Mr. Borba is paid a financial aid due to his productivity, those articles were submitted to Brazilian authorities. The government agent responsible for the researcher’s allowance – National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (or Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, acronym CNPQ) – found no plagiarism issues.
    In short, the Brazilian authorities and UFSC representatives jointly concluded on the absence of issues in all cases sent to their evaluation. They also shared the understanding that the mentioned professors were hired and are paid additional financial aids due to their PhD degrees, in a perfect regular situation.
    Consequently, I conclude that my work carries a serious inaccuracy, and for this reason I am publicly apologizing. The inaccuracy is related to the use of the word “plagiarism”. The fact is that “non-quoted coincidences” are accepted by UFSC and in Brazil, as long as they do not affect the conclusions and are no longer than short extracts. Thus, in my published article the term “plagiarism” shall be replaced by the expression “not-mentioned coincidences”.
    You will find hereunder links for further reading:
    My original paper (as published in 2012)!rMBDTSSY!fPlwnCqggAN0Pgs76_CRbC3rF4wy3I1zLokaE416xw4
    Monographs and thesis of students and professors mentioned in my paper!rVIiHawL!M7LUngMKIXx6Pg9hcuLWaEdV0F4iFcnxIt_OUwIT7o0

    1. Dear Dr Ari, I admire your work and guts. I am afraid most of Brazilian academia is like Brazilian government. This should be enough to be understood by any Brazilian…

      1. Brazilian Government: where everything just get lost in time and space. Excellent work by Dr. Ari, but this flawless qualification of “plagiarism” given by the Brazilian agencies and academy is rather mediocre. It is YES or NO. There is non minor plagiarism… We have a long way to be paved with some consistency and truth to go trough the gates of science in Terra BraZilis.

    2. This guy was bullied by his government to say that. It’s humiliating and disgusting. I’m not going along with it.

      Apology not accepted, honorable Dr. Ferreira. Never give up. Never surrender!

      But move to Europe.

  12. My question is about western blot.. I am MSc student from Srilanka. I am trying to repeat one of the western blot done for protein of interest in my lab. It has been done in the past by my senior post doc. I am trying to repeat the same experiments, but I am not getting the same result. I was wondering, how detect the fault in the previous experiment. If some one has loaded extra protein sample or less protein sample deliberately to show up regulation or down regulation of protein, how do you detect such errors. Off course, if the loading control are not from stripped blot, how can we detect such errors. I don’t think so all lab does loading control from same stripped lanes. Thanks in advance for your suggestions

    1. With blots one should always consider the possibility of image manipulation, which is much easier than manipulating the relative amounts of protein/antibody… If by repeating the same protocol you cannot reach the same result, the published protocol is pure fantasy, ditto!..

  13. Could anyone else please help me compare these two recent papers below:

    I have the impression there is a lot of overlap — sequence and modeling of 2 isoforms of the same protein by slightly different methods — and some eerie similarities between the chromatograms produced between and within the papers? I seem to see repeated baseline noise on those, but I am not sure. Also cannot evaluate the blots from lack of experience. Would appreciate impressions from some more experienced colleague, please.

  14. This retraction notice has to be one the most generous to fall upon these aged eyes.

    Retraction notice: Odanacatib for the treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Roland D Chapurlat MD PhD. Posted online on October 25, 2013. (doi:10.1517/14656566.2014.853038)

    Unfortunately, due to an honest error from the author, a small portion of this otherwise reliable published article contains clinically inaccurate data. The publisher and author agree to retract the paper pending correction.

    Read More:

  15. Okay, so I am going to sound like a dolt but I have an obvious question: if I run into a retraction in a journal I read and RW has not gotten to it yet, what is the best way of alerting Adam or Ivan about it? Apologies galore is this has been covered elsewhere and I managed to miss it.

  16. Hej,
    I have a similar questions to BellWiley – we were discussing a paper in our journal club the other day and we found that two microscopy images in a panel of like 6×2 images were identical. Not even slightly changed or contrast enhanced, just like identical. What can you do in a case like that – notify the journal or the corresponding author?

    1. You can either write the authors and request an explanation, cc’ing the editor, or write the editor and cc the authors requesting investigstion/correction/reteaction or whatever you think is appropriate based on COPE or other guidelines.

      Editors and authors cant be inform.each other if you only write to one. If you choose to write editor, think carefully about if you want to submit a signed letterof concern for.publication or an anonymous one clearly marked NOT for publication. Per COPE guidelines, journals that publish corrections or retractions are supposed to acknowledge by name whoever brought the issues to their attention.

  17. As a lay person who never reads scientific journals, but somehow started following RW, I have no good way of judging the scope of the problem – namely falsifying research. Just from following your blog, I wonder about the proportion of untainted articles to tainted articles. Help me put this in some perspective. I want to trust science, but this is scary!

  18. I’m going with adding an “expand all” button for the current instantiation of the comments. If this is the threading, which was – as far as I understand it – the desired outcome, then simplifying the delivery of the exchanges themselves seems requisite.

  19. Evidence of plagiarism―request to retract the offending paper

    The International Journal of Legal Information carries a paper Legal Education and Legal Profession in India in its volume 36(2) of 2008, pages 244-264, showing Chandra Krishnamurthy as its sole author.

    A plagiarism detection software Turnitin’s report ‒ reveals 63% of the text as plagiarised.
    The sources from which majority of the text has been copied are:

    1. Lahoti R. C., Legal education and legal profession – An introspection, All India Reporter 2002 (Jour) page 83-87
    2. Sorabjee S. J., Lawyers as Professionals, All India Reporter 2002 (Jour) page 4-7
    3. Bar Council of India, Part IV Rules of Legal Education, 2008, pages 52 (Available at: (
    4. Cranston R., Law and society: A different approach to legal education, Monash University Law Review, 1978, Vol 5, 54-69 (Available at:

    Let alone reproducing other’s texts with due permission and acknowledgement, Chandra Krishnamurthy has not even cited those sources. Indeed her paper carries no list of references and aims to create the impression that it is all an original work of the author.

    I also request your attention to a story that has appeared in the New Indian Express ( – one of India’s mass-circulation daily newspapers. It provides details of other acts of plagiarism by the same author. Indeed an entire book claimed to have been authored by her has been found to have been plagiarized to the extent of > 95%.

    It appears certain to us that the rest of the text of her paper mentioned above is also plagiarized though we are yet to ascertain it. This notwithstanding, I believe, enough evidence is in your hands to request the journal’s Editor to retract the paper as atleast 63% of the paper is a lift.

    1. Anonymous, it is not retractionwatch’s job to report potential scientific misconduct, it reports on the story behind and around retractions. If you believe there is evidence of scientific misconduct, in this case plagiarism, you can report it to the journal yourself, along with the turnitin report. I did a quick check myself, and it is indeed filled with copy-paste from other (older) sources, so I don’t think there will be any doubt for the journal about what to do – it being a legal journal!

    2. I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but the overlap with your No. 3, the Bar Council of India rules (which are identified as such), doesn’t strike me as relevant to a charge of plagiarism.

  20. I think this case is worthy of some investigation from the Retraction Watch team. Several papers in question with pretty obvious issues and a 155-page report, which appears in an unusual fast time frame and says everything is in order:
    Maybe you can help and post the report etc.

  21. Great site. I know you guys are tight on resources, but have you given any thought to adding the DOI, PMID or something similar to your news feed so that one might be able to automate detecting retractions of interest?

  22. This may seem an odd question: how many retractions are retracted? Given an error rate of accepting papers, it seems to me that there should be an error rate in retracting them, also.

  23. Hi, on this site we hear a lot about papers retracted for plagiarism or falsification. But do you have any information regarding how often researchers are accused of those things but, after investigation, are found innocent? Does that happen often?

  24. Thank you for sharing this post, but do you have any information regarding how often researchers are accused of those things but, after investigation, are found innocent? Does that happen often?

  25. I am not sure where to place this comment.

    Is there any way to display more than 3 recent comments to posts? Like a display more button? One can easily miss interesting comments to older posts. I don’t know if wordpress has limitations.

    Thanks very much indeed.

  26. I am a librarian well versed in the methodology of systematic and scoping reviews. So many of the reviews I see published conduct and/or document their methodology incorrectly (based on the Cochrane or JBI guidelines). As these types of reviews are considered to be the highest quality of evidence in many fields, I wonder why these reviews are first allowed to pass through the peer review stage and second, if they are published, why are they not retracted for the incorrect methodology? As clinicians and other life science professionals depend upon systematic reviews to provide synthesized evidence for their practice, why aren’t the methodologies of these reviews held to the standard of RCTs that are retracted for poor methodology?

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