Many journals are adopting a recently developed mechanism for correcting the scientific record known as “retract and replace” — usually employed when the original paper has been affected by honest errors. But if an article is retracted and replaced, can readers always tell? To find out, Ana Marušić at the University of Split School of Medicine in Croatia and her colleagues reviewed 29 “Corrected and Republished Articles” issued between January, 2015 and December, 2016, noting how they were marked by Web of Science, Scopus, and the journals themselves. They report their findings today in The Lancet.
Retraction Watch: You found some inconsistencies in how articles are handled by journals and other databases. What were the most surprising and/or troubling to you?
Ana Marušić: The most troubling were a few cases of articles that were retracted because of an error and for which a corrected version was published. The journals published an accompanying notice about the reasons for retraction and republication, and some even published the article with the changes indicated. However, they kept the same DOI as for the retracted article. According to the indexing specialists, this is not the proper way of marking different versions of the published record. Therefore, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) considers such articles as retracted, instead of “corrected and republished articles,” which is one of the standard tags in PubMed. This means that, when you search for these articles, you will see them as “retracted articles” (written on a big pink banner at the top of the page), although the version that is recorded presents a valid piece of research.