It's no secret that the rate of scientific papers being retracted or corrected post-publication is rising, but researchers and editors aren't all seeing that trend as a cause for concern, reports Nature News' Richard Van Noorden. In the early 2000s, an average of about 30 retraction notices appeared each year, but this year alone, that number is at about 400, Van Noorden says. Scientists and journal editors say this trend shows not that more people are committing fraud than before, but that the systems designed to detect fraud are working well. They also credit new software that more easily detects plagiarism and image manipulation. But, Van Noorden adds, the rising number also shows the stresses the system is under. "When the UK-based Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) surveyed editors' attitudes to retraction two years ago, it found huge inconsistencies in policies and practices between journals," Van Noorden says. "Other frustrations include opaque retraction notices that don't explain why a paper has been withdrawn, a tendency for authors to keep citing retracted papers long after they've been red-flagged and the fact that many scientists hear 'retraction' and immediately think 'misconduct.'" Some researchers are calling for reforms like better ways to link papers to their retraction notices or revisions, and more transparency about the reasons for a retraction.
Good, Not Great
Oct 07, 2011