Retractions of Scientific Articles


Last Wednesday an article appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, "Mistakes in Scientific Studies Surge," that got our attention. Retractions of articles from scientific journals have been climbing at a staggering rate. While the number of articles has increased by 44% since 2001, the number of retractions has "leapt more than 15-fold." In the area of medicine, there were 87 retractions in 2001-2005. But in 2006-2010, there were 436 retractions. These retractions were not confined to third-rate, fly-by-night publications. They included some of the most prestigious journals, such as Nature, Science, and the New England Journal of Medicine. The WSJ article focuses on a blood pressure research paper that was published in The Lancet in 2003 and retracted six and a half years later. That's a pretty long lag time. But, as you will soon learn, that is by no means the longest lag time on record. Increasingly long lag times between publication and retraction is another trend identified by the article.

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