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Misconduct and the Body of Knowledge

At her blog, Janet Stemwedel discusses how difficult it is to remove dishonest works from the scientific literature. "You would hope that one consequence of identifying scientists who have made dishonest contributions to the scientific literature would be that those dishonest contributions would be removed from that literature," she says. Stemwedel then points to an article in Science and Engineering Ethics from Anne Neale and her colleagues that looked into that question. The researchers identified suspect articles and then looked to see whether they had been retracted. Of 102 articles, nearly half had a retraction, a quarter an erratum, others included a comment or a link to NIH's 'Findings of Scientific Misconduct,' and four didn't show up in PubMed. Three, however, were unlabeled. Then by searching Web of Science, the researchers found 6,000 citations to those 102 papers. "Some of the problem … may be due to the vigilance (or lack thereof) displayed by those using the scientific literature, but some of it may come down to the extent to which that scientific literature is accessible to the researchers," Stemwedel notes.