Publishing: Rise in retractions is a signal of integrity

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A stigma should not be attached to the retraction of a scientific paper, as you explain (Nature 507, 389391; 2014). It should also be emphasized that the rise in retractions over the past few years does not signify a surge in misconduct: on the contrary, it reflects a growing scientific integrity.

Too many academics and journalists conflate retractions with the falsification of results. However, retractions account for less than 0.02% of publications annually — a fraction of the 2% of scientists who admit in anonymous surveys to having manipulated data at least once (see D. Fanelli PLoS ONE 4, e5738; 2009).

The majority of formal retractions have been issued in recent years, with none before the 1970s. A growing number of journals are now prepared to publish retractions, and the apparent increase in retraction rate disappears after correcting for this factor (see D. Fanelli PLoS Med. 10, e1001563; 2013).

Retractions are therefore more logically and usefully interpreted as evidence for the commitment of editors and scientists to remove invalid results from the literature.

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  1. University of Montreal, Canada.

    • Daniele Fanelli

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