Retraction Watch

A student recently alerted me to this splendid website and resource. It’s endlessly useful and interesting – a gift to researchers of all stripes, including students, teachers, scientists, and journalists.

Some praise:

“The seamier side of academia, lying, cheating and occasionally stealing, this is the world revealed by a blog which, by all rights, should be dry and boring, like its name, ‘Retraction Watch.’” — Fred Barbash in the Washington Post.

“…Retraction Watch is one of my favorite websites and I use it as a teaching tool in my Research Methods class.  While my goal has always been to not be mentioned on your site, I realize that, now as a journal editor, it very well may occur.” — Gary Miller, associate dean for research, Emory

“Check out the invaluable Retraction Watch, where two independent scholars, Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, have done more to police scientific misconduct than have megabucks-funding institutions.” – ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook

“There are lots of good science blogs, but I wonder how many of them make a difference. One that unquestionably does is Retraction Watch, run by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky, which daily brings us astonishing (and depressing) news, to be found nowhere else, of malfeasance in science.” — Veteran science writer Tabitha Powledge, writing on PLOS Blogs.

Because I come from an editing and publishing background, I especially like stories about the back-and-forth’s between aggrieved publishers and their miscreant contributors.

There are many charming rabbit-holes on this website. Today’s favourite: Retraction Watch Database User Guide Appendix B: Reasons. There are more than a hundred: from “Author Unresponsive” (“Authors lack of communication after prior contact by Journal, Publisher or other original Authors”) to “Salami Slicing” (the “publication of several articles by using the same small dataset, but by breaking it into sections, with the intent of exploiting a limited data set for the production of several published works”).

Not all retractions result from unprofessional activity. Some articles are withdrawn “due to change in the Copyright/Ownership of the article,” and others are retracted because they’ve become out of date.

Sobering fact: In RetractionWatch’s list of the “10 Most Highly Cited Retracted Papers,” three have been cited more AFTER they were retracted than they were before – an “ongoing problem,” note the website editors, dryly.

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