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Retracted papers by Iranian authors: causes, journals, time lags, affiliations, collaborations

Abstract

This study aims to analyze 343 retraction notices indexed in the Scopus database, published in 2001–2019, related to scientific articles (co-)written by at least one author affiliated with an Iranian institution. In order to determine reasons for retractions, we merged this database with the database from Retraction Watch. The data were analyzed using Excel 2016 and IBM-SPSS version 24.0, and visualized using VOSviewer software. Most of the retractions were due to fake peer review (95 retractions) and plagiarism (90). The average time between a publication and its retraction was 591 days. The maximum time-lag (about 3000 days) occurred for papers retracted due to duplicate publications; the minimum time-lag (fewer than 100 days) was for papers retracted due to “unspecified cause” (most of these were conference papers). As many as 48 (14%) of the retracted papers were published in two medical journals: Tumor Biology (25 papers) and Diagnostic Pathology (23 papers). From the institutional point of view, Islamic Azad University was the inglorious leader, contributing to over one-half (53.1%) of retracted papers. Among the 343 retraction notices, 64 papers pertained to international collaborations with researchers from mainly Asian and European countries; Malaysia having the most retractions (22 papers). Since most retractions were due to fake peer review and plagiarism, the peer review system appears to be a weak point of the submission/publication process; if improved, the number of retractions would likely drop because of increased editorial control.

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Fig. 1

Data source: Retraction Watch; the graph is prepared based on all 728 Iranian retractions found in Retraction Watch

Fig. 2

Data source: Scopus

Fig. 3

Data source: Scopus

Fig. 4

Data source: Retraction Watch; the data include the 343 retractions from Scopus, for which retraction reasons were retrieved from Retraction Watch

Fig. 5

Data source: Scopus

Notes

  1. 1.

    As also noticed by Lei and Zhang (2018), for China, for which  = 0.84.

  2. 2.

    Note that "Islamic Azad University" has many branches in different cities, like the Islamic Azad University of Isfahan, the Islamic Azad University of Mashhad, the Islamic Azad University of Tabriz, etc. Scopus, however, groups all of them into one institution, the Islamic Azad University, which makes it a large university.

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Correspondence to Ali Ghorbi.

Appendix

Appendix

As discussed in the Results section, in 2016, Tumor Biology and Diagnostic Pathology retracted many Iranian papers. The figure below shows the number of Iranian papers these two journals published in 2004–2020 (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6
figure6

Data source: Scopus

The number of Iranian publications published by Diagnostic Pathology and Tumor Biology.

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Ghorbi, A., Fazeli-Varzaneh, M., Ghaderi-Azad, E. et al. Retracted papers by Iranian authors: causes, journals, time lags, affiliations, collaborations. Scientometrics 126, 7351–7371 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-021-04104-9

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Keywords

  • Iran
  • Retraction reasons
  • Plagiarism
  • Fake peer review
  • Unethical behavior