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Harder Access for Fewer Citations

Retracted papers sometimes are still cited after they've been pulled, and Retraction Watch reports that Bar-Ilan University's Judit Bar-Ilan and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai's Gali Halevi have an idea to stop that.

In Scientometrics last week, Bar-Ilan and Halevi reported that researchers continue to read and cite retracted articles, influencing scientific thought. They searched Elsevier's ScienceDirect database for articles marked as retracted, determined why the paper had been pulled — ethical misconduct, scientific distortion, or administration error — and collected citation, read counts, and other data at multiple time points from Scopus, Mendeley, and altmetric.com. They found, for instance, that articles retracted for scientific distortion were cited an average 24 times in October 2014, 27 in January 2016, 29 in April 2017, and 30 in January 2018, a 4.5 percent growth.

Part of the problem, Bar-Ilan and Halevi tell Retraction Watch, could be that Elsevier provides free access to the retracted papers, a move they call "strange" as most Elsevier articles are not open access. "These articles often represent erroneous research in forms of falsified data and findings," the pair tells Retraction Watch. "Elsevier should make them harder rather than easier to access.

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