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

Draft Whitepaper

The whitepaper is currently available for comment. It is being circulated as an F1000Research Document: Schneider J, Woods ND, Proescholdt R, Fu Y, and the RISRS Team. Reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science: Shaping a research and implementation agenda [version 1; not peer reviewed]. F1000Research 2021, 10:211 (document) (doi: 10.7490/f1000research.1118522.1)

Additional PDF and Word Doc and Google Doc versions are available.

Comments can be made directly in the Google Doc or sent by email to jodi@illinois.edu.

We look forward to your feedback to help shape the white paper, especially its recommendation, which are:

  1. Prevent retractions from polluting the literature through the public availability of high- quality, consistent information about retractions.
  2. Make retraction information easy to find and use by using clear and consistent display standards.
  3. Recommend a taxonomy of retraction categories/classifications and corresponding retraction metadata that can be adopted by all stakeholders.
  4. Develop best practices for coordinating the retraction process.
  5. Educate stakeholders about retraction and pre- and post-publication stewardship of the scholarly record.

The proposed schedule for ongoing feedback is:
Mar 14 Version 2 circulated to stakeholders
Mar 29 Deadline for comments, suggestions
Apr 12 Version 3 circulated to stakeholders for last look
Apr 26 Deadline for comments, suggestions
May 3 White Paper completed

The whitepaper is also being circulated via the F1000Research Science Policy Research gateway to maximize the feedback we receive.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Retraction is a mechanism for alerting readers to unreliable material, effectively removing from the published scientific and scholarly record articles that are deemed to be unreliable or seriously flawed whether due to misconduct or honest error. As noted in the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) Retraction Guidelines, retractions may also be used to address, “redundant publication, plagiarism, peer review manipulation, reuse of material or data without authorisation, copyright infringement or some other legal issue (e.g., libel, privacy, illegality), unethical research, and/or a failure to disclose a major competing interest that would have unduly influenced interpretations or recommendations.” (COPE Council, 2019). 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, or can lead to misattribution of results or ideas (e.g., in cases of retraction due to dual publication, plagiarism, or ownership). 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, and retracted articles may still 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 frequently do not indicate 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: There is growing concern about the quality and reliability of scientific and scholarly information both within the research enterprise and in the broader public discourse; and the data needed to identify retracted research has become available, particularly from the Retraction Watch Database.

The goal of the Reducing the Inadvertent Spread of Retracted Science: Shaping a Research and Implementation Agenda (RISRS) project is to develop an actionable agenda for reducing the inadvertent spread of retracted science. This includes identifying how the gatekeepers of scientific publications can monitor and disseminate retraction status and determining what other actions are feasible and relevant. Herein the term, paper, is used for the published item that is retracted. We focus on whole, published items such as journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, and monographs. Except where otherwise stated, we exclude items that are posted as opposed to published such as preprints or data deposits as well as specific objects within a publication such as figures and images. The RISRS process included an exploratory environment scan, a scoping review of empirical literature, and successive rounds of stakeholder consultation, culminating in a 3-part online workshop that brought together a diverse body of 70 stakeholders to engage in collaborative problem solving and dialogue. Workshop discussions were seeded by materials derived from stakeholder interviews and short original discussion pieces contributed by stakeholders. The online workshop resulted in a set of recommendations to address the complexities of retracted research throughout the scholarly communications ecosystem. 2 The recommendations below are being circulated for further refinement with the aim of producing a final white paper in May 2021. The RISRS team will continue to solicit feedback from across the scholarly communications ecosystem, through presentations this spring to the Society for Scholarly Publishing and other groups. We welcome your feedback to refine the recommendations and the implementation agenda. For instance, you might help form a professional working group to further develop or refine these recommendations; present about retraction and related issues at professional and academic meetings; take on an implementation or policy project; or outline further research to be conducted.

Recommendations

  1. Prevent retractions from polluting the literature through the public availability of high- quality, consistent information about retractions.
  2. Make retraction information easy to find and use by using clear and consistent display standards.
  3. Recommend a taxonomy of retraction categories/classifications and corresponding retraction metadata that can be adopted by all stakeholders.
  4. Develop best practices for coordinating the retraction process.
  5. Educate stakeholders about retraction and pre- and post-publication stewardship of the scholarly record.