Retraction Watch is a fascinating blog devoted to, you guessed it, research article retractions. Created by two medical reporters, Retraction Watch provides a venue for publicizing retractions and offers a forum for a discussion of those retractions. Over the years there have been several researchers’ retractions that have been elevated to the realm of the infamous: Andrew Wakefield’s research linking the MMR vaccine to autism; Anil Potti, the former Duke researcher accused of lying about his qualifications on a grant application and using flawed data in his cancer treatment prediction studies; and Scott Reuben, who was convicted of fraud and falsifying research studies involving the drug celecoxib. By and large however, retractions receive limited publicity. For example, in 2013, Thomson Scientific’s Web of Science notes that there were over 500 retractions in the scientific literature… wow. This is where Retraction Watch steps in. They cover these retractions, and the blog serves an informal repository.
You might wonder how I could possibly think that a blog devoted to article retractions is fascinating, yet I’m here to tell you that the mistakes or wrongdoing that result in a paper’s retraction are gripping. For example, here are a few of the top retractions from 2014, culled by the founders of Retraction Watch and published in The Scientist:
- “A former researcher at Iowa State University (ISU) spiked rabbit blood samples with human blood to make it look as though his HIV vaccine was working.”
- the Journal of Vibration and Control retracted 60 articles over a ““peer review and citation ring” in which at least one professor in Taiwan, allegedly assumed false identities to promote his own work.”
- the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences “issued an Expression of Concern” for a paper that studied the psychology of Facebook users. According to the complaint, researchers did not notify users that they were taking part in a research project.
Again … wow.