Three speakers discussed the basic principles applying to retracted articles. Retraction is a mechanism for correcting the literature and alerting readers that an article contains such seriously flawed or erroneous content that its findings and conclusions cannot be relied upon. Jodi Schneider, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign listed these basics about retractions.
Inconsistent publication styles make it difficult to find out if publications have been retracted, and indexing such articles makes it even more difficult. In a test of 8 databases, only 1 (EMBASE) had a working link to a retraction notice. Continuing citation of retracted articles is not uncommon. For example, one article published in Chest in 2005 was retracted 3 years later because of falsified data, and it was cited more after the retraction than before! 96% of the citations improperly cited the retracted article. A similar study of citations in the PubMed database found the same results.
A NISO working group, Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science (RISRS) has issued these draft recommendations:
- Develop a systematic cross-industry approach to ensure the public availability of consistent, standardized, interoperable, and timely information about retractions.
- Recommend a taxonomy of retraction categories/classifications and corresponding retraction metadata that can be adopted by all stakeholders.
- Develop best practices for coordinating the retraction process to enable timely, fair, unbiased outcomes.
- Educate stakeholders about publication correction processes including retraction and about pre- and post-publication stewardship of the scholarly record.
CrossRef has acquired Retraction Watch which may result in improved metadata in the future. Meanwhile, PDFs of articles are still available, but several possible actions may be taken. About 60% of them have had a watermark added. Other actions include adding the retraction notice to the cover page, deleting the PDF and replacing it with the retraction notice, or replacing the abstract with the retraction notice. The HTML for the record could remain untouched, it could be marked as retracted, or it could be replaced by the retraction notice, with the metadata and full text removed.
The takeaway for everyone is to read the RISRS draft and give feedback.Librarians should develop procedures to account for retractions in core library services.Vendors should investigate their holdings and practices, examine their metadata flows, look at the RISRS draft and consider how they can align their practices with it.