Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Increasing numbers of retractions - and graphing them

Here's a link to an article in Nature that describes an increase in the number of retractions of scientific articles worldwide in the past 10-15 years. It's worth a look for at least two reasons.

First, the chart, (or charts, there are three) illustrating the article (screenshot below) is (are) particularly clear. The axis starts at 0, the colors are consistent, and the author, Richard Van Noorden, makes sure to point out that some journals are more influential than others.

Second, the issue of retractions generally is one that deserves broader amplification. I depend a lot on the research of others, and learning that something has changed is a useful reminder not to finish my research too early. Van Noorden makes some suggestions for reform of the non-system we have now for retractions of scientific articles, such as better ways to link retractions to the original reports, and also some mechanism to distinguish honest mistakes from fraud or massive error. Van Noorden also identifies a blog, Retraction Watch, that tracks "retractions as a window into the scientific process." If you're curious, it's a fun blog to explore.

Thanks to Arts and Letters Daily for pointing to the article.

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