Why Growing Retractions Are (Mostly) a Good Sign

Why Growing Retractions Are (Mostly) a Good Sign

Summary Points

  • Corrections to scientific papers have been published for much longer than retractions, and show little sign of a recent increase.
  • The number of journals issuing retractions has grown dramatically in recent years, but the number of retractions per retracting-journal has not increased.
  • The number of queries and allegations made to the US Office of Research Integrity has grown, but the frequency of its findings of misconduct has not increased.
  • Therefore, the rising number of retractions is most likely to be caused by a growing propensity to retract flawed and fraudulent papers, and there is little evidence of an increase in the prevalence of misconduct.
  • Statistics on retractions and findings of misconduct are best used to make inferences about weaknesses in the system of scientific self-correction.

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