Ben Goldacre at Bad Science recounts the experience of Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus at Retraction Watch when they tried to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the retraction of a 2004 Annals of Thoracic Surgery paper. When Oransky and Marcus contacted the journal's editor to find out why the paper had been retracted, they were told it was "none of your damn business." This isn't entirely uncommon, Goldacre says. Paper retraction notices, like the one published in ATS, can be "uninformative" and "opaque," which Goldacre says indicates "a systemic failure, across all fields."
In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe says journals must disclose "as much as possible" as to the reasons behind a paper's retraction. "There are all sorts of reasons for papers to be retracted, ranging from benign to evil, and it's in the interest of readers to know what category things have fallen into," he says. Even if the paper is the subject of an ongoing investigation, journals can still release some details surrounding the research without compromising its review, Lowe adds.