Retraction Watch has launched its database of some 18,000 papers that have been yanked from the literature. As Science, which worked with Retraction Watch on the crunching the numbers, reports, the retractions in the database date back to the 1970s.
Science notes that while there appears to have been a spate of retractions in recent years, this could be due to increased attention to problematic papers by the scientific community. Before 2000, it says there were about 100 retractions every year, and while this then shot up to 1,000 retractions in 2014, the rate of retractions has remained fairly flat for the past six years.
"Retractions have increased because editorial practices are improving and journals are trying to encourage editors to take retractions seriously," the University of Michigan's Nicholas Steneck tells Science.
Retractions are still rare, Science adds. As Vox notes, part of that is due to the stigma surrounding having a retracted paper. While papers maybe retracted for a range of reasons, it's often seen as a sign of malfeasance and this may prevent authors and journals from seeking retractions.
"Science is not broken," Retraction Watch's Ivan Oransky tells Vox. "The question is whether the science correction mechanism process is as robust as everybody wants it to be. It's still not, but we are seeing some signs of improvement."