Perpetuation of Retracted Publications Using the Example of the Scott S. Reuben Case: Incidences, Reasons and Possible Improvements
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- Bornemann-Cimenti, H., Szilagyi, I.S. & Sandner-Kiesling, A. Sci Eng Ethics (2016) 22: 1063. doi:10.1007/s11948-015-9680-y
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In 2009, Scott S. Reuben was convicted of fabricating data, which lead to 25 of his publications being retracted. Although it is clear that the perpetuation of retracted articles negatively effects the appraisal of evidence, the extent to which retracted literature is cited had not previously been investigated. In this study, to better understand the perpetuation of discredited research, we examine the number of citations of Reuben’s articles within 5 years of their retraction. Citations of Reuben’s retracted articles were assessed using the Web of Science Core Collection (Thomson Reuters, NY). All citing articles were screened to discriminate between articles in which Reuben’s work was quoted as retracted, and articles in which his data was wrongly cited without any note of the retraction status. Twenty of Reuben’s publications had been cited 274 times between 2009 and 1024. In 2014, 45 % of the retracted articles had been cited at least once. In only 25.8 % of citing articles was it clearly stated that Reuben’s work had been retracted. Annual citations decreased from 108 in 2009 to 18 in 2014; however, the percentage of publications correctly indicating the retraction status also declined. The percentage of citations in top-25 %-journals, as well as the percentage of citations in journals from Reuben’s research area, declined sharply after 2009. Our data show that even 5 years after their retraction, nearly half of Reuben’s articles are still being quoted and the retraction status is correctly mentioned in only one quarter of the citations.