project logo for Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: Shaping a Research and Implementation Agenda


Retracted papers insinuate themselves into the scientific publication network via citations both before and after retraction, which inadvertently propagates potentially faked data, fundamental errors, and unreproducible results. Research over the past decade has identified a number of factors contributing to the unintentional spread of retracted research. Many retracted papers are not marked as retracted on publisher and aggregator sites; many post-retraction PDFs are not watermarked and pre-retraction PDFs may be found in readers’ PDF libraries including in reference management systems such as Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley. Most publishers do not systematically surveil bibliographies of submitted manuscripts, and most editors do not query whether a citation to a retracted paper is justified. When citing retracted papers, authors are not required to identify retraction status in bibliographies or in-text citations.Collaboration across diverse stakeholders in the academic publishing ecosystem is needed to reduce the inadvertent spread of retracted science. This is a critical moment for stakeholder dialogue, because the data needed to identify retracted research has become available. In October 2018, Retraction Watch released a comprehensive database of all known retractions. Currently, the database has limited availability on the web, with bulk use arranged for private research use or by commercial licensing. However, a sustainability model for continuing to update and steward retraction data is critically needed.

Our goal is to develop an agenda for reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science. This includes identifying how the gatekeepers of scientific publications can monitor and disseminate the retraction status of a paper, and determining what other actions are feasible and relevant.

The workshop objectives are:

The project overall is trying to address these 4 research questions:

  1. What is the actual harm associated with retracted research?
  2. What are the intervention points for stopping the spread of retraction? Which gatekeepers can intervene and/or disseminate retraction status?
  3. What are the classes of retracted papers? (What classes of retracted papers can be considered citable, and in what context?)
  4. What are the impediments to open access dissemination of retraction statuses and retraction notices?