Skip to main content
Log in

The Right to Retract and the Danger of Retractions

  • Published:
Society Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Retractions by journals are an essential part of scholarship to deal with fraud and false research. But retractions also pose a threat to academic freedom when they are used to censor unpopular views under political pressure. Decisions to retract need to be made by the correct people (the journal editors), in the correct manner (following established due process procedures), and for the correct reasons (cases of fraudulent deception, rather than mere errors of facts or ideology).

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Stephanie M. Lee, “A Famous Honesty Researcher Is Retracting A Study Over Fake Data,” BuzzFeed, August 20, 2021,

  2. Colleen Flaherty, “When White Scholars Pick White Scholars,” Inside Higher Ed, June 13, 2019,

  3. Bruce Gilley, “The case for colonialism,” Third World Quarterly, September 8, 2017,

  4. Dalmeet Singh Chawla, “Cancer biologist says Nature journal “censored” his News & Views, retracts it,” Retraction Watch, October 10, 2016,

  5. Lawrence M. Mead, "Poverty and Culture," Academic Questions (Spring, 2021), After its retraction in Society, the article was published in Academic Questions.

  6. Colleen Flaherty, “Journal Editor Regrets Publishing Racist Article,” Inside Higher Ed, July 31, 2020,

  7. Springer Nature, “Response to article published in Society,” July 31, 2020,

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid.

  10. Lawrence M. Mead, "Poverty and Culture," Academic Questions (Spring, 2021),

  11. Yascha Mounk, “What an Audacious Hoax Reveals About Academia,” The Atlantic, October 5, 2018,

  12. Matthew Chupack, “Emory Law Journal drops ‘hurtful’ article, sparks national uproar,” Emory Wheel, February 2, 2022,

  13. FIRE, “Larry Alexander,” Scholars Under Fire Database, 2022,

  14. John K. Wilson, “In Defense of the Emory Law Journal, Academe Blog, January 10, 2022,


  16. (for both quotations in this paragraph).

  17. Alice Dreger, "Alice Dreger's Letter of Resignation at Northwestern,” Academe Blog, August 25, 2015,

  18. Northwestern Medicine Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, “Atrium,”

  19. Geoffrey Stone, “Academic Freedom Under Siege,” Huffington Post, June 1, 2015,

  20. Northwestern Faculty Senate, ad hoc committee on academic freedom, Feb 22, 2017,

  21. Elaine McKewon, “Climate Deniers Intimidate Journal into Retracting Paper that Finds They Believe Conspiracy Theories,” Scientific American, April 3, 2014,

  22. “Retraction: Recursive fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation,” Frontiers in Psychology, 27 March 2014,

  23. Eugene Volokh, “Court Rejects Pacira Biosciences’ Trade Libel Claim Over Article in Leading Medical Journal About EXPAREL,” Reason, February 4, 2022,

  24. “Research Ethics,” nature portfolio,

  25. Jonathan Rauch, “Nature Human Misbehavior: politicized science is neither science nor progress,” Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) news, September 14, 2022,

  26. “Research Ethics,” nature portfolio,

  27. Ibid.

  28. Ibid.

  29. “Why and how science should respect the dignity and rights of all humans.” Nature Human Behavior 6, 1321–1323 (2022).

  30. Elizabeth Winkler and Kelly Hui, “An Apology From the Viewpoints Head Editors Regarding Recent Op-Ed,” Chicago Maroon, April 2, 2022,

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to John K. Wilson.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wilson, J.K. The Right to Retract and the Danger of Retractions. Soc 60, 167–175 (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: