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Citing documents of Wakefield’s retracted article: the domino effect of authors and journals

Abstract

The present study aims to find out the origin of authors and the main sources in which citing documents of Wakefield’s 1998 retracted article are published in order to understand whether they act as promoters of a negative domino effect, there is, keeping alive a retracted article due to fraudulent data and analysis on the relationship between MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine and autism. The metadata of the 1577 citing documents of Wakefield’s article were downloaded from Scopus in three files according to the year of publication: 1998–2004 (partial retraction), 2005–2010 (in between partial and full retraction) and 2011–2020 (post full retraction). The number of citing documents in each period is 329, 411 and 837, respectively. A comparison between first and last periods indicates an impressive growth of language, authors, countries as well as journals from broader field coverage. Also, recent citing articles are highly cited and, even in a negative context, they contribute to the diffusion of a fraudulent article in the science context. The findings reinforce the urgency to create internal strategies in the scientific communication process, mainly inside the editorial flow, in order to reduce the dissemination of a retracted article that, in this case, is still harmful to society. At the end, the creation of an automatic mechanism to detect retracted articles included in the reference list of accepted articles is suggested.

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Notes

  1. Wakefield, A.J. et al. Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Lancet. 1998 Feb 28;351(9103):637–41. The retracted paper is not included in the reference list as a strategy for not giving it more impact and visibility. A more detailed explanation is presented in the section Conclusion and some remarks.

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Acknowledgements

This work received financial support from CNPq through the doctoral scholarship granted to Stephanie Treiber and the funding awarded to the research project n. 434.146/2018-8. This work is a substantially extended version of the manuscript “Citing a retracted paper: the case of Wakefield’s article that correlates vaccine and autism” that was published in the Conference ISSI 2021 (Leta et al., 2021).

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Correspondence to Jacqueline Leta.

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Leta, J., Araujo, K. & Treiber, S. Citing documents of Wakefield’s retracted article: the domino effect of authors and journals. Scientometrics (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-022-04353-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-022-04353-2

Keywords

  • Retracted article
  • Misconduct
  • Scientific communication process
  • Domino effect
  • Grimpact