We’ve been anticipating the launch of the Retraction Watch database because we’re often asked by HDR candidates and other early career researchers how to determine if a paper has been retracted. The database is a great (and free) service for the research community.
What are your hopes for the database?
As a number of studies have demonstrated, retracted papers continue to be cited as if they had never been retracted. That’s a problem, because it suggests there’s far more wasted effort going into dead ends than there needs to be. And it’s a fixable problem, because one hopes scientists wouldn’t knowingly reference retracted papers.
That’s where the database comes in. We know that many publishers aren’t very good about marking papers as retracted, nor about alerting databases about retractions. By including all retractions, including those that aren’t well-marked on publishers’ sites, or in databases, we hope to make it difficult, if not impossible, to read a paper without knowing whether it was retracted. For that to happen, what’s in our database would have to make it into libraries and reference management software, and that’s a next step.
How do you hope the database will inform researcher practice?
We hope that researchers who study retractions, scientific integrity, and related issues will make use of the database for their work. Since we launched in October, we have had a few requests per week, on average, from such scholars. Here’s one paper using the beta version to see which kinds of peer review are best for catching fraud. We’re happy to provide the dataset subject to a simple data use agreement.
How do you hope the database will inform institutional endeavours?
Publishers, funders and institutions may find it worthwhile to use it for a sort of “background check” of authors and applicants. At least two publishers already check authors against posts on Retraction Watch.
Do you think there is any prospect that the database might be misused?
Like any data, retractions can be misused, particularly if someone doesn’t pay attention to nuance or denominators. A retraction doesn’t necessarilynmean misconduct happened, which is why we categorize each entry according to reason for retraction. And a high number of retractions from a country,institution, or journal may mean more due diligence, not sloppiness.
What might RW do to educate users of the database?
We hope that the package of stories we worked on with Science to highlight findings in the database was a good first step. We published an extensive user’s guide — along with three appendices — when we launched. That guide will evolve as users contact us with more questions. And we encourage would-be users to contact us so we can walk them through issues they’re having, or how to do particular searches. We’re also out on the road a fair amount giving talks, and would be happy to do more, along with workshops on the database itself.
This post may be cited as:
Oransky, I. (24 December 2018) The Retraction Watch Database has launched. Here’s what you need to know. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/research-integrity/the-retraction-watch-database-has-launched-heres-what-you-need-to-know