Most Retractions Not Honest Errors: Science Journals Pull Most Papers for Fraud, Plagiarism

Article excerpt

Scientific misconduct--including fraud, suspected fraud and plagiarism-is the reason behind most retractions of papers published in scientific journals, a new study shows.

0nly 21.3 percent of biomedical and life sciences studies pulled from scientific journals were withdrawn because honest errors invalidated the findings, researchers report in the Oct. 16 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Retraction notices often don't explain why a study is being withdrawn, or they cover up the real reason for pulling a paper, says study coauthor Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and editor of the journal mBio.

To understand the scope of the problem, Casadevall and coauthors Ferric Fang and R. Grant Steen studied 2,047 retracted journal articles in the database, which references more than 25 million studies dating back to the 1940s. Of the retractions, 67.4 percent were due to scientific misconduct, the new study shows.

Retractions are up in part because publishers now use software to detect plagiarism and multiple publication of the same research. Plagiarism accounted for 9.8 percent and duplicate publication for 14. …