Information Technology Reference
Studies of Retraction
A retraction sends a strong signal to the scientific community that retracted articles
are not trustworthy and they should be effectively purged from the literature. Studies
of retraction are often limited to formally retracted articles. It is a common belief
that many more articles should have been retracted (Steen 2011 ). On the other hand,
it has been noted that retraction should be made to scientific misconduct, whereas
correction is a more appropriate term for withdrawing articles with technical errors
(Sox and Rennle 2006 ). We outline some of the representative studies of retraction
as follows in terms of how they addressed several common questions.
Time to retraction - How long does it take on average for a scientific publication
to be retracted? Does the time to retraction differ between senior and junior
Po st - retraction citations - Does the retraction of an article influence how the article
is cited, quantitatively and qualitatively? How soon can one detect the decrease
of citations after retraction?
Cause of concern - How was an eventually retracted article noticed in the first place?
Are there any early signs that one can watch for and safeguard the integrity of
Reasons for retractions - What are the most common reasons for retraction?
How are these common causes distributed? Should they be retreated equally or
differently as far as retraction is concerned?
Deliberate or accidental - Do scientists simply make mistakes with good faith or
some of them intended to cheat in terms of deliberate misconduct.
Tab le 8.11 outlines some of the most representative and commonly studied
aspects of retraction, including corresponding references of individual studies.
Several studies found that on average it took about 2 years to retract a scientific
publication and it took even longer for articles that were responsible by senior
researchers. Time to retraction of articles was particularly studied in a survival
analysis in (Trikalinos et al. 2008 ). Based on retractions made in top-cited high-
impact journals, it was found that the median survival time of eventually retracted
articles was 28 months. In addition, it was found that it took much longer to retract
articles authored by senior researchers, i.e. professors, lab directors, or researchers
with more than 5 years of publication records, than junior ones.
Post-retraction citations were studied at different time points after retraction,
ranging from the next calendar year, 1 year after retraction, to 3 years after
retractions. In general, citation counts tend to reduce after a retraction, but there
are outliers that are apparently unaware of a retraction after 23 years.
Irreproducibility and unusually high-level of productivity are among the most
common causes of initial concern. For example, Jan Hendrik Sch on fabricated
17 papers in 2 years in Science and in Nature . He produced a new paper every
8 days at his peak (Steen 2011 ). Irreproducibility can be further explained in terms
of an array of specific types of reasons, including types of errors and deliberate