, Volume 117, Issue 3, pp 2009–2019 | Cite as

Retractions in Science

  • K. Brad WrayEmail author
  • Line Edslev Andersen


Retractions are rare in science, but there is growing concern about the impact retracted papers have. We present data on the retractions in the journal Science, between 1983 and 2017. Each year, approximately 2.6 papers are retracted; that is about 0.34% of the papers published in the journal. 30% of the retracted papers are retracted within 1 year of publication. Some papers are retracted almost 12 years after publication. 51% of the retracted papers are retracted due to honest mistakes. Smaller research teams of 2–4 scientists are responsible for a disproportionately larger share of the retracted papers especially when it comes to retractions due to honest mistakes. In 60% of the cases all authors sign the retraction notice.


Retraction Scientific publication Science Authorship Collaboration in science Misconduct Honest errors 



We would like to thank Kristian Hvidtfelt Nielsen for feedback on an earlier draft. We would also like to thank our audience in Gent, when KBW presented an earlier version of the paper at the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice conference, in July 2018. We also thank the referees for Scientometrics for their critical feedback. Finally, we thank Aarhus Universitets Forskningsfond (AUFF) for a Starting Grant awarded to KBW. This grant, AUFF-E-2017-FLS-7-3, supports LEA.

Supplementary material

11192_2018_2922_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (125 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 125 kb)


  1. Bar-Ilan, J., & Halevi, G. (2017). Post retraction citations in context: A case study. Scientometrics, 113, 547–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berg, J. (2017). Editorial expression of concern. Science, 357(6357), 1248.Google Scholar
  3. Budd, J. M., Coble, Z. C., & Anderson, K. M. (2011). Retracted publications in biomedicine: Cause for concern. In Association of college and research libraries national conference proceedings (pp. 390–395)Google Scholar
  4. Budd, J. M., Sievert, M., & Schultz, T. R. (1998). Phenomena of retraction: Reasons for retraction and citations to the publications. Journal of the American Medical Association, 280(3), 296–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cokol, M., Iossifor, I., Rodriguez-Esteban, R., & Rzhetsky, A. (2007). How many scientific papers should be retracted? EMBO Reports, 8(5), 422–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Culliton, B. J. (1983). Coping with fraud: The Darsee case. Science, 220(4592), 31–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. de Solla Price, D. (1963). Little science, big science. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Fanelli, D. (2013). Why growing retractions are (mostly) a good sign. PLOS Medicine, 10(12), e1001563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fang, F. C., & Casadevall, A. (2011). Editorial: Retracted science and the retraction index. Infection and Immunity, 27(10), 3855–3859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fang, F. C., Steen, R. G., & Casadevall, A. (2012). Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(42), 17028–17033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Grieneisen, M. L., & Zhang, M. (2012). A comprehensive survey of retracted articles from the scholarly literature. PLoS ONE, 7(10), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hilgard, J., & Jamieson, K. H. (2017). Science as ‘broken’ versus science as ‘self-correcting’: How retractions and peer-review problems are exploited to attack science. In K. H. Jamieson, D. Kahan, & D. A. Scheufele (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the science of science communication (pp. 85–92). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hull, D. L. (2001). Why scientists behave scientifically. In D. L. Hull (Ed.), Science and selection: Essays on biological evolution and the philosophy of science (pp. 135–138). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Kennedy, D. (2002). Next steps in the Schön affair. Science, 298, 495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Marcus, A., & Oransky, I. (2017). Is there a retraction problem? And, if so, what can we do about it? In K. H. Jamieson, D. Kahan, & D. A. Scheufele (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the science of science communication (pp. 119–126). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Mathiesen, K. (2006). The epistemic features of group beliefs. Episteme, 2(3), 161–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Service, R. F. (2009). A dark tale behind two retractions. Science, 326, 1610–1611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Van Noorden, R. (2011). The trouble with retractions. Nature, 478, 26–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Wager, E., & Williams, P. (2011). Why and how do journals retract articles?: An analysis of Medline retractions 1988–2008. Journal of Medical Ethics, 37, 567–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Wray, K. B. (2018). The impact of collaboration on the epistemic cultures of science. In T. Boyer-Kassem, C. Mayo-Wilson, & M. Weisberg (Eds.), Scientific collaboration and collective knowledge: New essays (pp. 117–134). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Science StudiesAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark

Personalised recommendations