Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Michele Avissar-Whiting. Michele is the Editor in Chief at Research Square, a multidisciplinary preprint platform that launched at the end of 2018.
At the end of 2021, I enjoyed the rare perk of a sabbatical offered by Research Square to its decade-long tenured employees. I took the opportunity to focus for a month on a single question that I care about: “What happens to a preprint when its published version gets retracted?”
As long term readers of this feed know, too many journal publishers do a pretty poor job of highlighting when an article of theirs is retracted. So it will not be a surprise when an article published on a preprint server that is published by a traditional publisher is retracted, it can remain on the preprint server without annotation. This is a significant concern because a paper that is compromised or otherwise dodgy can endure and continue to pollute the academic record and potentially undermine good practice. We have included links to five related items.
At the tail end of a period where so much critical research was shared so quickly, checking in with our own vigilance in closing the loop on faulty research just seemed like the responsible thing to do. Preprints in biology and medicine have experienced a gradual awakening in the last five years — and a real boom since the start of the pandemic. As of today, EuropePMC clocks the number of preprints posted since 2018 at nearly 430,000, with roughly 75% of those being published since the start of 2020. Given the volume and speed of this growth, there is bound to be a proportion that is later found to be fraudulent, ethically compromised, or just wrong. Like preprinting, the practice of retraction is much more common now than it was a decade ago. Rising concern about unethical or incorrect publications languishing in the literature (probably facilitated by public discourse around problematic research on the internet) has placed pressure on publishers to act on these cases and correct the record.