Have you seen our “unhelpful retraction notices” category, a motley collection of vague, misleading, and even information-free entries? We’d like to make it obsolete, and we need our readers’ help.
Retraction notices should promptly indicate if the research output has been retracted, including the reasons for the retraction. In nearly every case, future researchers should never reference a paper that has been retracted. This includes taking care when producing a new/reprint of an existing book or other research output. Decisions about clinical treatment or other professional practice should not ideally be based upon a single paper or other output, but should be based upon a systemic review of the literature on a subject. This Retraction Watch piece which was published in May 2015, discusses what should be the components of a quality retraction notice. Like many things in this area, we wholeheartedly agree with their suggestion.
Here’s a draft of our proposed guidelines, which include many of the items recommended by the Committee on Publication Ethics and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors:
Retraction notices meeting bare minimum requirements will:
- include the reason for retraction, in clear, unambiguous language that differentiates misconduct from honest error
- indicate which aspects of the paper are affected (i.e. which specific data or conclusions are invalid)
- indicate who initiated the retraction and which authors agreed to the retraction
- be linked prominently from all versions of the abstract
- be freely available (not paywalled)
- be communicated swiftly to indexes (eg PubMed, Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge)
- be marked clearly as a retraction, rather than erratum or corrigendum
- indicate when the retraction notice was published (to differentiate this date clearly from when the original paper was published).