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Most retracted articles are not the result of misconduct, a recent PLOS One article reports.

Michael Grieneisen and Minghua Zhang from Wenzhou Medical College in China and the University of California Davis examined nearly 4,500 scholarly papers that were retracted between 1928 and 2011. Publishing misconduct was the most common reason for retraction, followed by questionable data or questionable interpretation of data.

Further, Grieneisen and Zhang note that, "though widespread, only miniscule percentages of publications for individual years, countries, journals, or disciplines have been retracted. Fifteen prolific individuals accounted for more than half of all retractions due to alleged research misconduct, and strongly influenced all retraction characteristics."

Over at Retraction Watch, Ivan Oransky says that this was a "comprehensive" look at a large number of retractions, but he also notes that the study has a number of weakness as it relies on retraction notes themselves — which may not clearly state the reasons for a retraction— as well as relies on a classification system that may have grouped one type of misconduct as an error.