Reasons for retractions Budd et al- found and analysed 235 retracted articles (1966 to 1997) • Error (38.7%) • Misconduct or presumed misconduct (36.6%) • Results could not be replicated (16%) • Unclassified(8.5%) • JAMA 1998;280:296-297
Wager and Williams – analyzed 312 retractions 1988 to 2008 (out of 870) • Reasons for retractions similar to the findings of Budd et al. • The number of retractions are increasing • There are inconsistency in journal policies • Reasons for retractions are not clearly stated J Med Ethics. 2011 Apr 12 [Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1136/jme.2010.040964]
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) published retraction guidelines for journal editors in Dec 2009.http://www.publicationethics.org/files/retraction%20guidelines.pdf All BioMed Central journals are members of COPE
Case 1- Ethics approval • We were informed by the authors’ institution that the authors had not obtained final approval for two studies published in our journal, although the authors state in the article that ethics approval was obtained. • One article was an RCT – the authors applied for approval. They were granted approval provisional on them fulfilling some conditions. The authors proceeded with the study without fulfilling these conditions. • One article was a cross-sectional /questionnaire study. • The corresponding author is a junior researcher, and these studies were carried out as part of his PhD studies. • His supervisor claims that the ethics committee conditions were minor administrative details and that the studies were carried out ethically. • The institute tells us that their investigation relating to these articles is over, but have not provided any further information on what the conditions were.
Case 2 – unsupported claims • The journal was informed by a reader that a published article reported falsified data and was making ‘outrageous’ claims. • The institution confirmed that the data were not falsified. • During the investigation two experts commented that the claims made by the author in the article were not supported by the data. Vital reference data were missing.
Case 3 -Self plagiarism • The journal was informed that an article had been plagiarised from another article published by the same authors in another journal. • The authors had duplicated parts of the methods section and some data from the published study. The introduction, and discussion were different and the article presented new data. • The authors denied they had plagiarised their own work. They said they merely presented different outcome data from the same study. However, this is not clear in the article. Some data is reproduced.
How do we get it right? COPE says, “The main purpose of retractions is to correct the literature and ensure its integrity rather than punish authors who misbehave” “Retraction should usually be reserved for publications that are so seriously flawed (for whatever reason) that their findings or conclusions should not be relied upon”
Separate author misconduct from unreliable data Unreliable published data Unethical published research Author misconduct Unethical research * Institution’s responsibility to ‘punish’ authors Journal editor’s responsibility to correct the scientific record/ alert readers
Finally • Consider retraction as the last resort • Consider publishing a correction • Consider publishing an expression of concern