Journals can take months to years to retract unreliable research. Journalists often fail to tell the public when scientific discoveries later are determined invalid or fraudulent, a new paper reveals. PLUS: 4 tips for tracking flawed research.
Academic journals and journalists both perpetuate misinformation about academic research, a new study finds.
The time it takes for journals to retract flawed or compromised papers, inconsistencies in how retractions are reported and the continued citing of retracted papers (often referred to as “Zombie Papers”) by academics and journalists, have real consequences. This perpetuates conspiracy theories and misinformation. Journalists, researchers and journals need to recognise their role and fault here and take action.
The analysis reveals researchers play a role, too. Some researchers rely on and use discredited research in their work — even years after a journal has withdrawn the research from publication because problems such as scientific misconduct, significant errors, plagiarism or ethics violations have rendered those results untrustworthy.
Lead author Stylianos “Stelios” Serghiou explained the new study highlights key problems in the pipeline for communicating science to the public. In an email interview, he stressed the need to correct the scientific record as well as the public record following a retraction, “especially in the case of consequential or highly popularized articles.”